Bless­ing box helps stu­dents

Girl Scouts cre­ate food pantry at Downes El­e­men­tary

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

Thanks to the mem­bers of Girl Scout Troop 1014, Downes El­e­men­tary School stu­dents in need of food now have a place to go for help.

The three 11-year-olds – Na­bell Ki­fle­mariam, Alyssa McLain and Noelle Turner – built a “bless­ing box” stocked with a va­ri­ety of non­per­ish­able foods in the nurse’s of­fice. When school ad­min­is­tra­tors be­come aware of a fam­ily in need of food, they can help out by send­ing home a bag of food from the bless­ing box.

“I’m proud,” said Alyssa, who is in fifth grade at Downes, along with Noelle. “It kind of makes me feel like I’m a help­ful per­son.”

The girls com­pleted the project this spring as part of their ef­fort to earn a Bronze Award, one of the high­est awards given by the Girl Scouts. Charged with find­ing a way to help their com­mu­nity, they brain­stormed ideas and car­ried out the project, even build­ing a cabi­net for the do­nated food them­selves.

“I was re­ally proud of them. They came up with the idea on their own and ex­e­cuted ev­ery­thing,” troop leader Kris­tine Turner said. “They re­ally thought ev­ery­thing through.”

Af­ter build­ing the bless­ing box, the girls held a school-wide food drive. Each class­room had a col­lec­tion box, and the suc­cess­ful drive left the bless­ing box over­flow­ing with food. Al­ready, sev­eral stu­dents and their fam­i­lies have ben­e­fited from the ef­fort.

“It feels re­ally good know­ing you helped some­one,” said Na­bell, a fifth­grader at Ne­wark Char­ter School.

Prin­ci­pal Tr­ish Pret­ty­man said the bless­ing box is a wel­come ad­di­tion to Downes, not­ing that she is aware of sev­eral fam­i­lies in need. The school al­ready dis­trib­utes do­nated cloth­ing and col­lects gifts through a “mit­ten tree” around the hol­i­days, but she some­times gets emails from fam­i­lies look­ing for as­sis­tance with food, as well.

While the school pro­vides free break­fast and lunch to stu­dents who qual­ify for the fed­eral pro­gram, the same as­sis­tance isn’t avail­able at din­ner­time.

“The idea is cer­tainly some­thing that was needed,” Pret­ty­man said. “I thought it was very thought­ful and gen­er­ous of them to want to help other peo­ple.”

Even though the girls are get­ting ready to head to mid­dle school, Downes’ com­mu­nity ser­vice club will keep the bless­ing box full, Pret­ty­man said, adding now that it is es­tab­lished, fam­i­lies can do­nate food at any time.

“We will def­i­nitely sus­tain it,” she said. “The hard work has been done.”

For Noelle, see­ing the fruits of their la­bor was cer­tainly worth the hard work.

“It made me happy to help some­one else,” she said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Girl Scouts Noelle Turner, Alyssa McLain and Na­bell Ki­fle­mariam built a “bless­ing box” filled with do­nated food at Downes El­e­men­tary School.

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