The greatest need in decades

| 22 Feb 2012 | 02:58

M-W students rally to collect the most food items in the history of Thanksgiving food collection efforts, By Nancy Kriz MONROE - Thousands of pounds of food and sundry items were packed in boxes normally used for reams of paper at North Main Elementary School on Monday afternoon, ready to be distributed later in the day to hungry families within the Monroe-Woodbury School District. At least 150 boxes were stuffed with canned goods, pasta and other boxed foods, the most organizers can ever recall putting together in the 28 years the district has been collecting food at Thanksgiving time. Later that afternoon, 120 needy families stopped by to pick up at least one box of food so they would have something to eat on Thanksgiving Day, even if it wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving meal. North Main was selected to be the site for the annual distribution, but students from Smith Clove and Pine Tree elementary schools as well as the middle school and high school also donated. Sapphire and Central Valley elementary schools also undertook separate food drives for their own school families. ‘Extra generous this year’ Still, it took five truckloads to bring the huge volume of food items from those four schools to North Main. “The community has been extra generous this year,” said Kathy McDonnell, who works in the North Main nurse’s office and who was coordinating the preparation of boxes with North Main nurse/health educator Kathy Doherty. “This is the biggest (amount of food) I’ve ever seen.” Sharon DiGeronimo, a nurse/health educator at Monroe-Woodbury Middle School, agreed it was the largest amount ever donated by school families, and noted the need is the greatest she’s ever seen in her 28 years working for the district. “Yes, this is directly related to the economy,” said DiGeronimo. “It has a lot to do with it. People who used to help us now need help.” Each year, the district sends home flyers with students telling families to contact their school nurse if they are seeking food assistance during the Thanksgiving season. Each school organizes the solicitation of food items the way it chooses, and its nurses take the lead role in coordinating the collection efforts. ‘If everyone gives something ...’ “Historically, people call the health office to get help,” said DiGeronimo. “We tell people how to let us know if they are in need.” This past Monday, North Main’s Doherty and McDonnell were busy handling last minute donations, include fresh fruits and vegetables that arrived that morning. By sunset, the hallways - which had an overflow of boxes lining them - were bare. “This shows that if everybody gives something, something very successful comes out of it,” said Doherty. Fifth grader Bryan Santana agreed. “People need help,” he said. “Some people don’t have anything and are starving. This gives them something for Thanksgiving.”