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Hale students fight hunger with food drive

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By Dermot Connolly

Students at Hale Elementary School in Clearing collected thousands of items in a food drive that became a community event when the United Business Association of Midway coordinated the delivery of the goods to local food pantries.

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Seventh-grader Mckayla Rogers and JoAnn Williams, president of the Hearst Community Organization, hold the doors at Hale School as other students in the leadership team carry the proceeds of a recent food drive they ran to a waiting delivery van –Photos by Dermot Connolly

Seventh and eighth graders in the student leadership team organized the food drive for the school at 6140 S. Melvina, collecting more than 4,000 non-perishable food items donated by students of all ages—much more than they expected.

“We were talking about doing this for a while. Our goal was to get 500 items. So we are really happy to see what we got,” said eighth-grader Cori Hundt, as she and other members of the leadership team helped carry the donations from the school vestibule into vans for transport to local food pantries.

The leadership team was responsible for printing information about the food drive and giving updates about it during the regular morning announcement period.

“It was amazing to see how much all the classes were bringing in when we checked in with them each week,” Hundt said.

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Teacher Rob Bendick (at left) and dean of students Samantha Kyme (rear, right) join members of the student leadership team at Hale School for a photo surrounded by some of the proceeds of a food drive they recently held for local food pantries.

Just as school was about to let out on Feb. 27, the students on the leadership team carried the last of the donations to a rear hallway, already piled high with bags and boxes of food—everything from cereal to canned vegetables.

They were joined by sixth-grade teacher Rob Bendik and Samantha Kyme, the dean of students, who oversee the team. The hallway served as the staging area where the students and UBAM members helped carry the donations into waiting vehicles.

“It definitely was student-driven,” said Kyme, She noted that the leadership group started about five years ago, but the pandemic halted a lot of activities.

“Last year, the team collected socks for homeless shelters,” said Bendik. “When they decided to do a food drive, we turned into a competition among the various classrooms, with the winner getting a pizza party.”

The seventh and eighth graders who organized it didn’t mind that the winners turned out to be the kindergartners.

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Teacher Rob Bendick helps students in the leadership team at Hale School carry boxes and bags of groceries collected in a recent food drive to a waiting van for distribution to local food pantries. Mckayla Rogers is holding the door.

“This was a great achievement we did for people in need,” said seventh-grader Jack Guerrero, with the leadership team.

Kyme turned to UBAM to help distribute the food to local food pantries because the business organization coordinated the successful expansion of a community garden on the school grounds.

“We figured local food pantries would appreciate these donations more than just bringing them to the Greater Southwest Food Depository, which gets several trucks delivered daily,” said UBAM Board member John Marusarz.

He and JoAnn Williams, president of the Hearst Community Organization, then arranged for much of the donations to go to the food pantry of the Academy for Global Citizenship charter school, 4941 W. 46th St. ACP is also a member of UBAM.

“With the price of food these days, this is a blessing for a lot of people,” said Williams, as she and seventh-grader Mckayla Rogers held the doors open as the other volunteers carried bags and boxes of food into waiting vehicles

Francisco Perez, a Clearing resident and colleague of Marusarz, filled his work van with donations that he transported to ACP.

When his van was filled, Williams brought up her own SUV to take a second load to the charter school. “ACP also has deliveries of fresh produce at 2 p.m. every Tuesday, and these donations will be made available then too,” she said.

“They collected way more than we were expecting to pick up,” said Marusarz.

So much was collected that an additional load was delivered to the food pantry at New Life Community Church, 5101 S. Keeler.

“I had a lot of fun doing this,” said seventh-grader Brielle Peralta. “I love that we were able to do this to help people.”

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