When it comes to generosity, students in two high school classes are learning big lessons about what it means to give to people who have less.
A group of New Castle High School service learning students, along with teachers and administrators, have taken up a collection to help needy families have a happier, healthier Thanksgiving feast. A class of service learning students at the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center have collected money to buy baskets of food for families who otherwise might not have bountiful holiday turkey dinners on their table today.
The New Castle students and staff amassed more than $1,000 in donations and shopped for groceries for the City Rescue Mission and the Holy Spirit Parish food pantry. Students involved in the effort were junior Chelsea Off, senior Maddie Conley, and sophomores Ionae Corbin and Madison Soukovich. Teachers Rick Mancino, Blaire Pezzuolo, Russ Carley and Alex Samples and assistant high school principal Jonalyn Romeo worked with the students.
“With the help of the school district and local businesses and individual people community-wide, we collected monetary donations,” Mancino said.
The group networked with the two agencies about their needs, then they went to Sav-A-Lot and bought the groceries needed for complete Thanksgiving dinners.
The Food Pantry of the Holy Spirit Parish distributed the food to families who need it.
“We’re all in it together,” Mancino said. “I can’t emphasize enough how the leaders of the schools back each other up and give us the freedom to do these things. New Castle is second to none when it comes to this. The kids we took shopping bought the food, and it was a project. They shopped to get the most for a buck, and they had to figure out the best route to go, what to buy, what not to buy.”
The donations to the Holy Spirit food pantry were welcomed, said Sister Ann Bremer of the parish, exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, It was wonderful!”
About $400 of the groceries purchased went to the food bank, located in the lower floor of St. Joseph the Worker Church at 111 Cascade St. But it didn’t take long for that and other provisions donated to the food bank to be wiped out for the upcoming holiday, she said.
“So often people don’t see who’s in need. These students being able to collect the money and divide this food is like they opened their eyes, saw a need in the community and gave of themselves,” Bremer said. “This past weekend we had an onslaught of people who came to the food pantry. What the students did made a difference for a lot of people.”
During the first week of November, the Faith Formation students of Holy Spirit Parish had collected enough money to give 15 families full meals, including the turkeys, she said. She said the pantry is open the first and third Saturdays of the month at 11 a.m. for anybody, with no conditions on it.
St. Vitus grade school currently is collecting food for the Christmas season.
“We plan in our Faith Formation program to conduct a drive every other month to try to keep those shelves filled,” she said.
Anyone who wants to donate can drop off food products with non-perishable, non-expired food dates at the pantry, or take them to any of the Holy Spirit Parish worship sites. People who want to send monetary donations can send checks marked for the food pantry to the parish office at 910 S. Mercer St.
Anthony Ovial, peer leadership adviser at the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center, explained that for the third year the peer leadership students organized free turkey dinner giveaways to needy students’ families.
“In all, we received enough donations in the form of food, money, Giant Eagle Gift Cards, and Gift bags, to supply Thanksgiving dinners for 50 kids and their families,” Ovial said.
“We continue to see a need at this time of year for the school to lend a helping hand to our students,” he said. “We know that we are not just feeding the 50 students who take home these bags, but we are feeding their whole families, which we believe will reach 200 people or more.”
Leaders in the effort, in addition to Ovial, are Donna Pasterik, peer leadership advisor and Nick Neupauer, peer leadership student president.