Operation Fill the Pantry expands to more county schools
— Just two months after launching, Operation Fill the Pantry has opened a second pantry at Elkton High School and plans to open two more at county schools in the coming months.
Allie Austin and Kim DeAngelis, both Cecil County Department of Emergency Services employees, started Operation Fill the Pantry with the goal of providing free hygiene products to students so those students can feel their best and do their best in school.
The organization opened its first pantry, which includes mostly hygiene products as well as some clothing and non-perishable food, at Elkton Middle School in mid-February. At the end of March and at the request of Elkton Middle, the group opened a second pantry at Elkton High because of the
need there, Austin said.
Unlike Elkton Middle, the Elkton High pantry has food and clothing available for students, in addition to hygiene products, Austin said.
Opening two pantries in quick succession wasn’t the original plan for the organization, but Austin said the positive reception and community support for the idea made it easy to speed up the timeline.
“We were very surprised,” she said. “We weren’t planning on even opening another pantry for at least five or six months.”
So far, that community support has included a donation from Grace Wesleyan Church in Millington, a $1,000 donation from the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in North East and donations from the Red Lion Christian Academy’s National Honor Society. The pantry at Elkton Middle has also been nearly self-sustaining thanks to donations from parents and teachers — Austin said she’s only had to bring over one bag of donations to restock since the pantry opened.
With all the support, Operation Fill the Pantry plans to open a pantry at either Thomson Estates or Holly Hall Elementary School as well as at one of the North East schools, thanks to the VFW’s donation, Austin said.
When looking at where to open pantries, the organization looks at schools with the most need, Austin said. At Elkton Middle, about 70 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals and at Elkton High that figure is around 50 percent, she added.
The Elkton Middle pantry has gotten some use since it opened but Megan Frunzi, the school’s assistant principal, said it’s been a challenge getting the word out about the pantry.
“It’s been sort of a slow process in terms of making people aware that it’s there,” she said.
But Frunzi said the school has reached out to school staff at nearby Gilpin Manor Elementary School to make them aware of the pantry in case their students need it too. And though the community has been great about offering donations, Frunzi said she’s been careful not to expand too quickly and wants to focus on mainly hygiene items for now.
The pantry does have some non-perishable items such as granola bars, juice and crackers though, Frunzi added, and has received a few monetary donations, which have gone toward meeting specific student needs for clothing and other items.
“We’ve very happy with the community support,” she said.
Anyone who wants to help with Operation Fill the Pantry can contact Allie Austin at 443-485-7111 or alexandrea. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Operation Fill the Pantry opened a second pantry at Elkton High School at the end of March.