Wydown Gives Back

Students and staff at Wydown collected cereal boxes for St. Martha’s Hall, a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.



Michelle Schiller-Baker (left) and students hold boxes of cereal. They were helping provide breakfast for St. Martha’s Hall.

We are in a community where the value of giving is reinforced. I hope that this is just part of a larger message that the students receive about how important it is to reach out to make sure that all people have what they need. The generosity of the Clayton community really cannot be underestimated.

— Debra Solomon Baker

“I feel like the community at Wydown always comes through in a really big way to help other people,” said Debra Solomon Baker, an eighth grade teacher at Wydown. “That’s a beautiful part of the Wydown community and a beautiful part of my job.”

One such need is at St. Martha’s Hall, a shelter for abused women and their children. In 2008, St. Martha’s Hall experienced financial struggles and had to make some tough decisions.  

“We lost some funding. So we were thinking of doing two meals a day–getting rid of breakfast– which would save money,” Michelle Schiller-Baker, founder and executive director of St. Martha’s Hall, said.

However, Debra Solomon Baker, niece to Michelle Schiller-Baker, took action to ensure that breakfast could be provided every morning at St. Martha’s Hall. She has been leading the students and faculty at Wydown in collecting boxes of cereal for 11 years. This fall, Wydown gave 114 boxes of cereal, plus some baby formula and bananas.

“Every year Wydown donates enough cereal to pretty much get us through the whole year,” Schiller-Baker said.

After a few years, many organizations change the non-profits they donate to. Wydown has built a relationship with the shelter because of its long-term dedication to the cause.

“We trust Wydown, there is a relationship there, a comfort level. We depend on them and that relieves us of the burden of finding somebody else or not knowing what to do,”  Schiller-Baker said.

At that time, Wydown wanted to provide a more complete breakfast for the shelter. Josh Wilmsmeyer, a 7th and 8th grade science teacher at Wydown, contacted Prairie Farms about providing milk to supplement the cereal. The company donated several gallons of milk a month for five years.

“We are glad that the shelter is able to provide a nutritious breakfast every day. That is so important,” Baker said.

Not only does Wydown aid St. Martha’s Hall, but they often get something in return. In years past, the staff at the shelter have led workshops about safe dating and safe relationships at Wydown, as well as explaining the importance of the shelter.

“Sometimes you do service and you don’t always know the impact, but in this case the impact is quite clear,” Baker said.

The impact of the shelter extends beyond providing a breakfast. The staff feels a responsibility to change way that society views domestic abuse.

“We have this moral obligation to not just provide services at the shelter to those who need it but to change the system in our society,”  Schiller-Baker said. “We need to change the culture that allows this type of violence to occur with impunity and allows it to occur hidden in the shadows.”

Stack of cereal boxes. The students collected 114 boxes for the shelter.

To ensure safety for the residents of St. Martha’s Hall, the shelter is not looking for short-term volunteers. However, Schiller-Baker encourages other ways for students to get involved.

“For every family that comes home to the shelter we have a homemade welcome card on the bed. A lot of times schoolkids make them,” Schiller-Baker said. “We like them to be homemade because it shows that someone took the time to think about what they put into it.”

Whether it be collecting cereal boxes or filling some other need, the Wydown community understands the importance of giving back. When they have a goal, the students and staff can accomplish so much.

“We are in a community where the value of giving is reinforced. I hope that this is just part of a larger message that the students receive about how important it is to reach out to make sure that all people have what they need,” Baker said. “The generosity of the Clayton community really cannot be underestimated.”

For anyone interested in donating boxes of cereal, Debra Solomon Baker is happy to bring more boxes of cereal to Michelle Schiller-Baker.