It took nearly a dozen Quaker Valley Middle School students and some parents to carry 45 laundry baskets and 25 boxes filled with food into the Center for Hope in Ambridge.
The seventh-graders loaded up a truck at the middle school and delivered the food Tuesday after collecting a record number of donations during the eight-day food drive supporting those less fortunate.
“I think this was one of our best turnouts ever,” said seventh-grader Bearett Tarris. “Normally, we don’t get this much.”
“I think people were more motivated to bring in the cans,” seventh-grader Maria Beatty added.
Sue Otto, executive director of the Center for Hope, said many food pantries see donations around the Thanksgiving holiday, but are sometimes forgotten during the Christmas season and beyond. The pantry serves more than 500 individuals considered in need, according to income guidelines. Otto said the majority of those served are children, elderly or disabled.
Otto told the students their donation would go a long way to help needy families.
“A lot of the kids we feed are kids your age who are hungry,” Otto said.
R.J. Long, social studies teacher and student council adviser, said every year the students conduct a food drive. This year, he said, students felt it best to focus the school-wide project on giving to the Ambridge food pantry since the middle school is making its home at the Anthony Wayne building in the community this school year.
“They said, ‘What if we were able to do something for the Ambridge community?’” Long said.
Student council set a goal for students to collect 1 ton of food, or at least 2,000 food items, and students in grades 6 to 8 turned the drive Nov. 14 to Nov. 22 into a homeroom competition.
Long said the pantry requested canned goods such as hearty soups, tuna fish, cereal, jars of spaghetti sauce, icing and boxes of desserts such as cookies and cakes.
Students and faculty collected 3,225 items –- 1,225 more than their goal.
Long said each homeroom tallied its donation totals using charts in the school lobby. The food began to spread throughout the open hallway, allowing the kids to see as their donations grew. On Tuesday, the students got another look at just how much they raised once the items were loaded inside the food pantry. Afterward, they took a tour of the center.
Long said many of the kids aren’t exposed to how those less fortunate live, but he said they always talk about giving back.
“For a lot of these kids, it’s a very eye-opening experience,” said Long, who appeared moved by the generosity of his students.
Otto said the middle school students join a growing list of Sewickley groups, professional practices, organizations and churches that have shown generosity to the center.
“Sewickley, I can’t say enough about how good they’ve been to come and help their neighbors going through tough times,” Otto said.
Classmates agreed the experience was rewarding. In the end, student council bought breakfast for the entire school as a thank you.
“I think it was a good experience for all of us to help the kids in need,” said seventh-grader Isabella Brown.