LAINGSBURG — When the coronavirus pandemic pressured Laingsburg Group Faculties to institute distant studying in 2020, Lisa Jelenek and plenty of others instantly noticed a necessity as college students struggled.

Unwilling to sit down again and watch college students proceed to fall behind, Jelenek, her husband Tom and plenty of different group volunteers have begun to transform a vacant storefront at 124 E. Grand River Highway into The Connection, a free tutoring heart tailor-made towards college students of all ages.

The Jeleneks hope to have the middle up and operating within the spring of 2022, although various renovations should nonetheless be accomplished earlier than opening — putting in drywall, flooring, plumbing, warmth/air con and electrical energy amongst them.

A golf outing at Pine Hills Golf Course netted about $7,000 towards the mission this summer time. Jelenek encourages those that can to donate, acknowledging “each greenback helps” towards making the middle a actuality.

“It’s only a ardour,” stated Jelenek, who taught for 40 years, together with 14 as a first-grade instructor at Laingsburg Elementary, earlier than retiring in 2014. “I feel the Lord presents us in several methods and I do know one among mine is serving. I’ve simply all the time thought, don’t simply be a see-er of the necessity, be a doer. Should you see the necessity and listen to the necessity and the Lord has blessed you, then I feel you have to bless others.”

Lisa and Tom Jelenek moved to Laingsburg from Dayton, Ohio in 2000, and it didn’t take lengthy for the couple to get entangled locally.

Having taken a first-grade instructing job at Laingsburg Group Faculties, Lisa Jelenek began realizing a few of her college students have been coming to high school in the identical garments day after day. One younger boy particularly, she stated, would put on the identical Clifford raincoat all year-round, whatever the climate.

The Jeleneks had been concerned with a clothes resale retailer in Ohio, and recognizing the substantial want in Laingsburg, they determined to start out their very own. The couple bought two adjoined buildings at 120 and 124 E. Grand River Highway in 2003, changing the house at 12o into The Laingsburg Clothesline, a nonprofit resale retailer of inexpensive, top quality used clothes.

The Clothesline has been up and operating beneath the management of a volunteer board of administrators since 2006, offering all kinds of used clothes — from informal to formal put on — to the group at a low value — and to these in want, at no cost. All income from clothes gross sales on the registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit are donated again into the group, Lisa Jelenek stated.

The nonprofit’s board prayed fervently for years on find out how to finest use the adjoined constructing at 124 E. Grand River Highway, routinely declining presents from potential enterprise house owners wishing to purchase the house.

The short-term closure of faculty buildings amid the coronavirus pandemic, creating a number of challenges for academics, college students and households, opened the Jeleneks’ eyes to the shortage of one-on-one studying alternatives. With the board’s assist, the couple started brainstorming find out how to remodel the house right into a free tutoring heart.

Offering love and a spotlight

Silvia Jarvis was as soon as a pupil in Lisa Jelenek’s first-grade class. She now serves instead instructor for the district, and is working alongside her former instructor to assist make The Connection a actuality.

For Jarvis, it’s about offering that targeted consideration to college students, one thing she’s typically unable to do within the conventional classroom setting.

“Once you’ve obtained 20 youngsters, you’ll be able to’t concentrate on simply the one so it is a spot the place we are able to,” Jarvis stated. “I’d relatively simply sit with them and actually focus and dive in.”

In highschool, Jarvis volunteered at The Clothesline along with her mom Heather Strieff. She additionally routinely volunteered on the elementary college, working with college students for an hour every day. Now instructing kindergarten on the elementary, Jarvis can see the gaps in college students’ schooling.

“I’ve youngsters who can’t write their title or maintain a pencil in my class after which I’ve youngsters who can learn full books to me,” Jarvis stated.

“I feel a spot like this can assist,” Strieff added. “We would like them to like coming in right here as a result of they’re getting that love and that focus and that confidence.”

The ladies envision The Connection being a year-round operation, with tutoring obtainable on weeknights in the course of the college yr in addition to all through the summer time months. A handful of residents have additionally approached Jelenek about the potential of tutoring senior residents, instructing find out how to use computer systems and cell telephones, amongst different topics.

“We want it, completely, not simply due to COVID, what’s taking place, however I feel general as a result of there isn’t actually (a spot) for the youngsters to go in the event that they do need assistance,” stated Kristyna Baynes, a volunteer at The Clothesline with daughters in first and third grade. “I like our academics, however when (the youngsters) have to do one thing at house, I’m making an attempt to be as affected person as I can but when I do know I can take them and convey them right here, that’s simply going to be superior.”

Baynes, who started volunteering at The Clothesline three years in the past after stopping in to purchase a flannel shirt, believes the house will function rather more than a mere studying heart.

“It’s going to be not only for youngsters. My perception is that it’s going to be for the group,” Baynes stated. “I feel it’s going to be nice that folks can simply are available in, hang around, (and make connections).”

Donations to The Connection might be submitted electronically through Venmo @LaingsburgClothesline. For extra info, go to or name Lisa Jelenek at (517) 256-1399.