Middle School Market Draws a Quiet, Appreciative Clientele
Pottsgrove Middle School Librarian Shelby Kqira, at top, stands besides gift wrapping paper, toys, and coats ready for shopper’s selections
UPPER POTTSGROVE PA – A woman entered the Pottsgrove Middle School library Monday afternoon (Nov. 22, 2021), quietly, but in tears. She left a short time later, just as quietly, but with a smile on her face, a bag filled with food, and one gift for each of three children.
She was one of an expected 20 anonymous individuals to visit this year’s Middle School Market on its opening day. Her presence, and happier departure, signaled what Librarian Shelby Kqira calls a “wonderful” start to the holidays.
For the next couple of weeks, the library on the second floor of the North Hanover Street school has been transformed into a supermarket (above and below). Its handsome bookshelves are topped with canned and boxed goods that stretch for dozens of feet, and are organized by food type for “shopper’s” convenience. There are tables laden with new children’s coats, and toys as well.
All of it – every box, every can, every potential gift – is free for the taking to those who have a need, no questions asked. It’s all due, Kqira notes, to the generosity of the Pottsgrove Middle School community.
The market offers more than 2,500 pounds of food happily collected by Pottsgrove families and students. Their homerooms competed against each other to bring in the most items and highest weights, with an astounding 90-percent participation rate. Administrators, faculty members, and other district employees urged them on, and contributed themselves.
Although the 10-year-old effort organized by Kqira is billed as a one-day affair, she understands how great the need is among its clientele. In its first hour alone three shoppers, that initially tearful woman among them, arrived for assistance. Kqira said she anticipated many more would drop by through mid-December, hoping against hope the market might still have something for their tables.
In years past, she said, “I used to pack it up and take it to a food bank, and inevitably I would come back in the next week and someone would say, ‘Do you have any food? I wasn’t able to get up there.'” Only after what now seems like a reasonable wait will Kqira and her army of “Community Helpers” pack up what remains and bring it to the pantry at the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities. Nothing gets wasted.
For the most part the shoppers are overwhelmed by the variety of choices and the abundance of availability. Two children who accompanied their mother to the market literally ran up and down the aisles, Kqira said, pointing to favorite foods and asking “Mom, can we get this? Can we get that?”
The mother tried to calm them, but their obvious joy was contagious. “If shopping and getting whatever you want from this lovely little market makes those kids happy, then it makes me happy,” Kqira said. “Some kids can’t go to the grocery store and get whatever they want.”
Working parents are often unable to attend the market; they can’t risk leaving their jobs. Such was the case with a Pottsgrove student who came into the library after school ended, explaining his mother couldn’t make it. Could he instead take some items with him home on the bus?, he asked Kqira. Of course, she responded, and placed his choices into a backpack to avoid drawing the attention of others.
Almost all those in greatest need she’s encountered over the years, Kqira said, are sensitive about their circumstances. It’s also her observation that they are most considerate of other shoppers. They limit themselves to selected items they know they need or believe they can use, and leave plenty for others, even though there are no limits to what gets taken.
The market, like most other events, did not operate during what can now be described as 2020’s COVID Christmas. As a result, Kqira said, “I just was really determined to come back stronger this year. And, boy, our kids really came through, and our parents came through.”
Photos by The Posts; students’ photo provided by Shelby Kqira