ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Nisha Phillip-Malahoo is getting results for her community and she’s doing it from her front yard.
Phillip-Malahoo just wanted to get books into her students hands when schools were closed so the first grade teacher at Pinewood Elementary set up a little library in her front yard during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Philip-Malahoo lives in the same neighborhood as many of her students so it was easy for them to stop by.
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“I had kids coming to me saying I need some books,” Phillip-Malahoo remembers. “So I wrote a grant for the free library and it’s chock full of books.”
Phillip-Malahoo teaches virtually so when the kids started stopping by she got a better impression of their home life.
“Because my kids were coming to me more often, I was able to see the need more. I found a lot of my families suffer from food insecurity.”
That was when Malahoo started a Thanksgiving food drive. Families stopped by her front yard to pick up their meals and after that, a holiday coat drive followed.
“That’s where all this started. It’s a grassroots movement,” Phillip-Malahoo said from her front yard.
A pick-up game of basketball was being played in the street, kids danced to pop music and an off duty Orange County Sheriff’s officer made small talk with parents.
“This is like a neighborhood community thing. The kids can come and shoot hoops with us, they grab some books from the free library and we just hang out.”
Phillip-Malahoo’s latest community outreach had a Valentines Day theme. “Anything you want, you can take,” Malahoo says to a group of small children. The folding table in front of them was filled with school supplies, books and snacks.
Phillip-Malahoo says she’s been able to get donations and grants for some of the items but she also pays for much of it herself.
Gwen Maddox walked over with her granddaughters. “They’re in class virtually,” Maddox said. “This gives them a chance to come out and be among other kids, and we really need some more books.”
Ezra Brooks helped his son, Isaiah, find some new reading material. “We look forward to these events,” Brooks said. “This is our second time.”
Margarette Pierre was with her two sons. “I think she’s awesome, she’s incredible,” Pierre said. Phillip-Malahoo helps tutor her boys. “Reading is the number one thing for her. The more they read the happier she is.”
“All teachers support their kids in whatever way they can,” Phillip Malahoo said. “This is the way I support my kids by giving them some supplies, by giving them some snacks and by giving them opportunity.”
Malahoo is already planning the next event which will focus on feeding the neediest children at her school.
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