Make your home page

Students start a nonprofit business and get a surprise donation

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Students from two Indianapolis southside high schools have started a business in their shared classroom to help people in need. A few weeks after the nonprofit clothing boutique opened, it received a unique donation. 

Boxes of Christel DeHaan’s clothing were found in the building Emmerich Manual High School and Christel House Academy share. The late Indianapolis businesswoman and philanthropist was the Academy’s founder. Now the students are continuing her life’s mission, to give back.

(Provided Photo/Christel House Manual Boutique)

“I applaud you guys very, very much,” said Robin Clark when speaking to her class.

Clark teaches entrepreneurship and business to high school students and has a lot to be proud of. The students have created a nonprofit business called Christel House Manual Boutique. Now the store is open in the back of their shared classroom.

“Not every business is a profitable business. Some businesses do what they do to help people,” said Marqun Ford, a sophomore at Emmerich Manual High School.

(Provided Photo/Christel House Manual Boutique)

To give away clothing for free is the mission of this business. The students have been collecting donations to make the store possible.

The kids said there is poverty in Indianapolis and the need in the community is great. While they wear uniforms to school, clothing outside of class can be a challenge to afford. This boutique is a way for families to get the clothing they need.

“People need clothes and sometimes they are not able to afford them. And we just thought this is like a great idea,” said Jada Cooper, a sophomore at Emmerich Manual High School.

“We can help so many people in the community by doing this,” said Meko Gee, a sophomore at Emmerich Manual High School.

“You’re talking about everyday life and they don’t have enough money to get the stuff,” said Ford.

The students were inspired by the late Indianapolis businesswoman and philanthropist, Christel DeHaan, who founded one of the schools with her educational nonprofit, Christel House International. For more than 20 years DeHaan helped impoverished children throughout the world. She died in 2020, however, her work lives on.

“Christel DeHaan left all of her clothes to the school,” said Clark. “They were hidden in a closet behind the theater, so we were able to bring them up.”

“It is crazy to find another piece of her at this school,” said Gee.

“It was sort of mind-blowing,” said Cooper. “She founded our school and started everything, and now we have a piece of her to carry on with all of our students.”

(Provided Photo/Christel House Manual Boutique)

For students like Prestija Woods from Christel House Academy, the class is teaching a greater lesson in life.

“It is important to try to start something new. Step out of your boundaries, your box. To feel free,” said Woods. “What I am looking forward to is somebody bringing in their little sister or brother, get a pair of shoes, see a smile on their face. It just makes it all worth it.”

The goal now is to grow the business, grow the mission DeHaan started so many years ago and grow the spirit of giving back.

“When they graduate and I retire, that store is still here,” said Clark.

People can follow the business on social media with the handle @Chm_boutique.

The students still need more donations. They are looking for used clothes, new underwear, and new socks. Monetary donations are greatly appreciated as well. People interested in helping can send the donations to the school at 2405 Madison Avenue, in Indianapolis.