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Corvallis students help collect paper goods for domestic violence group
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Corvallis students help collect paper goods for domestic violence group

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Corvallis High School Interact club members delivered five cars full of paper products last week to a local group that works to reduce domestic and sexual violence in Ravalli County.  

Interact Club is a high school service group sponsored by Rotary International. The students stood outside of four grocery stores in Hamilton on Thursday collecting paper products for donation to Supporters of Abuse Free Environments (SAFE) to aid their ongoing efforts to serve the community. 

Super One Foods, Hamilton Market Place, Albertsons and Safeway allowed the collections in front of their grocery stores and store employees helped spread the word.

Corvallis seniors Addie Rohlman and Emma Jessop work for the office of president for the youth service organization.

“It gives high schoolers a chance to look outside themselves and affect the people that they can on maybe a bigger level than what they’d be able to do individually,” Jessop said. “(Collecting) the paper goods was fun even though it was cold. You’re with people you know and you talk and laugh.”

Rohlman said it feels good to serve others.

“Especially during this time, our community needs us more than ever,” she said. “I think it is good for high school students to get involved in the community. What’s amazing about Interact is how it is raising high school students to be leaders in their community. That’s how our community will improve is by raising leaders.”

In the four years of their Interact membership, the co-presidents said this is the largest amount of paper goods they have seen collected and donated to SAFE.

“It’s exciting to see how much the community has given in this time of need,” Jessop said. “People rose to the challenge.”

Rohlman said collecting was exciting work because of the positive community response.

“They were really excited anytime we told them we were collecting for SAFE,” she said.

“We definitely had a lot of engagement,” Jessop added.

Paper products contributed included napkins, toilet paper, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, diapers, baby wipes and paper plates.

SAFE Program Director Rachael Shea said the donations are much appreciated.

“I think it is the most we’ve ever seen and this is the time of year we get a little emotional over paper products,” Shea said. “We’re realizing the community cares, remembers us, and that these high school kids give their time on a weeknight to stand in front of grocery stores and ask for help for us. It reminds me there are people in our community that want to be part of the work we are doing here at SAFE.”

Shea said SAFE relies on this paper drive to provide all the paper products for their emergency shelter and all of the survivors (of domestic abuse) who live in transitional housing.

“We don’t want them to worry about spending money on paper products when we can supply it for them,” Shea said. “This is the paper drive for the year for SAFE. We do have individuals who donate throughout the year. They’ll call, go to the grocery store and bring us stuff, but these are the kids that stock us up every year.”

SAFE was adversely affected last year when schools were closed to in-person education to prevent the spread of the coronavirus just before the scheduled paper drive with Interact. Paper product purchases were limited and SAFE staff members had to go to grocery stores one at a time and make purchases nearly every day.

SAFE offers a variety of services, programs and activities designed to create a violence-free community, including a 24-hour hotline at 406-363-4600, advocacy, legal advocacy, and adult and child support groups for those who have experienced domestic and sexual violence, and immediate safety and security, as well as long-term transitional housing. In addition, the group, which was founded by Soroptimist International of Hamilton nearly 35 years ago, provides community education and public awareness.

“We’re still here, ready to provide services in Ravalli County,” Shea said.

Rotary Club member Marilyn Morris said they approached Corvallis High School 15 years ago with the idea of starting a student club.

“It has just grown since then,” Morris said of the Interact Club. “It is youth doing community service.”

Morris said there are 13 Interact club across Montana and Corvallis High School is the largest with an average of 80 members.

Interact Advisor Alyce Leonardi said she had 50 eager students sign up to collect paper items for SAFE.

“Everyone seems to hold food drives to help those in need,” Leonardi said. “SAFE serves a population who also need help but in a different way. The Interact Club became involved in the paper products drive to not only help SAFE collect these items but to also bring awareness to the value that SAFE provides our community.”

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