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JS FBLA group assists elder care residents

JERSEY SHORE — For residents of Nippenose Valley Village, a personal care home near Jersey Shore, one of the bright spots in the midst of the months of being socially distanced due to COVID-19, has been the store created and run at the facility by students of the Jersey Shore FBLA.

The store, which is a partnership in business project with the Village, actually began in 2019. Nippenose Valley Village is located in a fairly remote location, so that there were no places nearby for residents of the home to purchase small items, according to Julie Steinbacher, one of the owners of the home.

“They didn’t have the money themselves (the residents) to start a stores, so the Jersey Shore FBLA high school kids got together and they started a store,” she said.

The students had been looking at partnering with a local business plus ways that they could give back to the community, said Dolly Oden, high school business education teacher and FBLA adviser.

“They also learn about a lot of different business practices,” Oden added.

Alexa Greevy, a junior at Jersey Shore and a member of the FBLA, is one of the project leaders for the store at Nippenose Valley Village and was there when the project was first discussed.

Greevy, who actually lives near the personal care home, which is housed in her former elementary school, said that she lived nearby and was aware of the lack of resources for the residents in the area.

“We had to interview with the administrators and owners of the Village to see if it was okay and to see if they had a good spot for us to do it. Then we went to local businesses and a couple of stores which were sort of the same level as us and we looked at their inventory,” Greevy explained.

“A lot of them guided us as to where to get products. Some of them donated shelving and things like that. We also had to interview all of the residents to see what kind of items they wanted because we were starting from scratch with an inventory. We took the most popular items that they all wanted and we kept stock. We also regularly take requests to make sure that all the residents are getting what they want,” she added.

When buying the items, the students look at what is popular. An item such as a popular toiletry or a favorite snack they might purchase several at a time because of the value of buying in bulk. There are also local businesses that donate items or offer them at a discount.

“The students learned a lot of really great skills,” Oden said. “I think the students have a better appreciation of what it takes to start a business and to continue running that business.

The store is stocked with items such as stamps, cards and crossword puzzles and staffed by volunteers.

“One of the big things is the holiday items and those things that the residents really enjoy,” Oden said, adding, “Ice cream is the big seller.”

“The residents absolutely, positively loved it,” Steinbacher shared. The business is self-sustaining and any profits are given to the WeShoreCare project at the school.

Last year, when the pandemic struck, the students were not permitted to enter the facility. They kept stocking the store and handling the business end of the operation, such as reconciling the cash, and basically doing everything that the owner of a business would do.

Steinbacher said that every month the Jersey Shore FBLA students have found ways to support the home. On two occasions they gave pizza to the staff just to thank them. At Christmas, they gave gift certificates to all of the residents.

“I was personally there when this one man couldn’t wait for that store to be open. Then there were like five men who came in and they were just so excited to buy things and to be able to shop,” she shared.

Robert Packer, a member and FBLA officer who works at the home through a co-op program said that he feels that the store benefits the residents, especially now.

“The store gives them an opportunity to purchase things they might need. It gives them the chance to get out and about and out of their rooms to socialize in a safe manner,” he said. “Overall I think it’s a really good thing for the residents here.”

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