Faces of 501: Fred Willer

Fred Willer has worked for Topeka Public Schools for the past 12 years as a social worker at Highland Park High School, but before that was stationed at the school as a social worker through the Family Resource Center. On an average Willer makes contact with dozens of students a day, driving them to appointments, helping them find jobs, feeding them or just taking the time to talk with them. Recently, he has taken on an additional role with the district as director of the new Millie Murphy Community Cupboard, which operates out of the Quinton Heights Educational Center. 

“This idea started back in the 1980s with community volunteer Millie Murphy running the original Topeka Public Schools clothing bank located at the Holland Center, and it ran successfully until the early 2000s when Murphy retired. We restarted the clothing bank at Highland Park in 2005, where it was located until this last school year. It has been expanded into the Community Cupboard, which in addition to the clothing bank we now have a food bank and provide hygiene supplies. The idea behind the Community Cupboard is to provide resources to students and families that if not provided may pose a barrier to school success.”

“The most surprising thing to me has been the groundswell of community support through donations. Harvesters has been a great partner by donating food supplies, Silverbackks provides us with hygiene supplies and we have gotten thousands of donations of clothing and canned food this semester from community members. The district’s social work interns have spent countless hours organizing the Cupboard to make sure supplies are easy to find. If you need to access the Cupboard reach out to your school’s social worker or counselor, or you can call me directly at 274-6026 to set up a time to visit. I’ve learned that students can overcome difficulty in their lives, just don’t be afraid to ask for help and we are here to provide that help.” 

Willer, right, accepts a donation from Tisha Schmidt and the ENT department at Stormont Vail Health. 

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