Friday, February 5, 2021

Windham Middle School restocks food pantry shelves

Windham Middle School students collected a total of 651
items to assist in restocking the Windham Food Pantry after
a busy holiday season. The seventh grade at WMS amassed
the largest number of items collected during the initiative.

By Elizabeth Richards   

Windham Middle School has a history of promoting community service and giving back to the community. Recently, the school provided 651 items to help restock the Windham Food Panty after their busy holiday season.

Debbie Hall, attendance secretary, receptionist and “jack of all trades” at WMS, said that the food drive is an annual event. Hall, who has worked at the school for 22 years, said the student council used to head up the food drive, but handed it over to Lee Leroy, a beloved health teacher at the school, about four years ago. Mrs. Leroy passed away two years ago, and Hall said the school has conducted the annual food drive in her memory since then.

The year Mrs. Leroy passed away was the largest collection, with more than 1,000 items, she said, but this year was one of the biggest collections they’ve done, despite the pandemic.

There was a friendly competition between the grades, with the seventh grade emerging victorious.

“It was close. Every day it changed,” Hall said, “But a couple of big donations came in for the seventh grade as the competition drew to a close. We’ve never had one this neck and neck, so it was good, but at the last minute the seventh grade really pulled ahead.”
Although collecting food was more challenging this year, because of the pandemic and students only being physically in school a couple of days per week, Hall said there was more participation.

Parents of remote students brought items in, community members without kids in the school participated, and the PTA donated $50 to the food pantry as part of the drive.

Hall said she stressed that they were working to replenish the food pantry because it was one of their busiest seasons ever. A specific list of things that the pantry needed most was available for families and community members.

“I always call and ask what they need, because otherwise you get 500 boxes of pasta,” she said.

This year those needs included condiments, pasta sauce, jelly, paper towels, wipes, and certain vegetables, and that’s what the students came through with, Hall said.

“We hit the specific targets that they were low on.,” she said.

Windham Food Pantry officials are grateful for the assistance.
“It’s wonderful what the middle school students did to help replenish food items that are in high demand at the Windham Food Pantry, even pet food,” said Colette Gagnon, Social Services Administrative Assistant for the Town of Windham, who runs the Windham Food Pantry. “It’s great to see the younger citizens of Windham take great concern for those in need of food security.”

Drew Patin, WMS principal, said that connection and contributions to the community are part of the vision being developed for RSU 14, including events like the food drive.

“For students that participate it’s really around feeling like they are contributing to the community,” he said.

Hall said that the school does other service events throughout the year as well.

During the holiday season, for instance, they helped 33 families at the school, providing a warm blanket, hat and mittens for each child, along with items from their wish lists.

In the spring, she said, they hope to do something with a local animal shelter or possibly even the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals on River Road. <

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