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