It’s All Essential

Character education and servant leadership are central to Belinda Quimby’s philosophy as principal of Humboldt Academy of Higher Learning. “One of the things I love about Little Bit is that it helps connect our students to the wider community and additional role models for their life,” she says. That feeling of connection and support extends to teachers, staff and parents as well, she adds. In these ways, Quimby says Little Bit has been much more than the items it provides in its first year serving the school of 150+ 3rd-5th graders. “It’s been so beneficial to have such a strong community partner in a really challenging year for everyone.”

Still, you can’t underrate the value of the physical essentials Little Bit provides, she says. “We had a significant number of students needing items from the boutique, and many families regularly used the food market this year.” She recalls a mother who lost both her job and car and whose son was battling Type 1 diabetes, and a father with two rough-and-tumble boys growing faster than he could keep them in new shoes and clothes. Both frequently benefited from the resources Little Bit provides, she says. “Also, as educators, we now don’t have to worry about these obstacles getting in the way of instruction or digging into our own pockets to make sure students have what they need.”

Quimby says as students became more familiar and comfortable with the services, they began advocating for their own needs. Little Bit volunteers Rich and Julie Fitzer say they too felt the nervousness of students fade over time. “Each week we were there, they would become more excited to see us and you could tell they trusted us more,” says Julie.

The Fitzers first began volunteering for Little Bit in the warehouse on Mondays, but transitioned to school reps for Humboldt in the 2021-22 school year. Julie, an anesthesiology assistant, is off on Mondays and Rich, a financial planner, is able to set aside time once a week for Little Bit. “We’re blessed to have the flexibility to volunteer in addition to donating, because it’s so rewarding to be able to see the kids,” says Rich.

The couple also believes working “on the other side” gives you a new perspective. Julie explains, “When you’re packing student orders in the warehouse, you may not be thinking about the reaction of the student receiving it; how excited they become when you pull out a pair of new shoes in their favorite color or socks featuring a cartoon character they love. You also don’t see the disappointment when shoes don’t fit quite right and they have to go back to Little Bit until a new pair can be delivered.” The Fitzers work hard to ensure sizing is correct and leave little notes on orders to the warehouse so that volunteers know more about the individual needs and preferences of each student.

On average, Humboldt received 20 student orders with multiple items each week during the year. But that number sometimes was as high as 40, say the Fitzers. “When you multiply that by 42 schools that Little Bit is serving, just the sheer volume of items going out and students impacted is astounding,” says Rich. “I hate that Little Bit has to exist, but I’m so glad that it does.”