GILBERT — Gilbert Elementary School students held a food drive to help supply The Store House, a local food pantry. The students at GES were able to donate almost 3,000 food items to the pantry to help during the holidays.
Tina Trent, a teacher at GES came up with the idea for the project as a way to give back to the community. Once she approached GES principal Phyillis White with the idea, White took the idea of donating food and went a step further.
“I used to do food drives with my girl scouts years ago,” said Trent. “I originally thought I could have a few totes set up outside my classroom door and that people could just bring the food by and drop it off but after I talked to Mrs. White, she suggested that I imagine a way to get the students involved. We came up with the idea for a class competition and the winner would be given a treat of a movie.”
Asking the students to partake in a competition was just the spark that the project needed and before Trent realized, the food drive was underway and the donations were flowing in.
“Never underestimate these classrooms and how competitive they are,” said Trent.
During the first week of the food drive nearly 800 items were brought in from the students and their parents. Trent could hardly believe it as she spent her Friday evening counting but that was only the beginning of the schools competition. During week two of the competition, students brought in a massive haul of 2, 192 food items for a grand total of 2, 939 donations that were going to be made to Pastor Clifford Rawls and The Store House, the food pantry that he runs in Gilbert.
“I cried when I counted it on that last Friday,” said Trent. “I couldn’t believe it when I seen just how much they had brought in.”
The school gathered on Monday along with Gilbert Mayor Vivian Livingood, Pastor Rawls and his wife Barb Rawls to reveal the winners of the competition.
The class that collected the most items was Ms. Fowlers class with 439 items followed by Ms. Plummer’s class that totaled 410 items. For third place, there was a tie between Ms. Grimmett’s and Ms. Mounts’ classes with 275 items each.
“Those two compete like crazy,” added Trent. “I even recounted both of them twice just to make sure but they collected the exact same amount of items.”
Pastor Rawls could not believe the outcome of what started out as idea to take up food donations in a few totes for The Store House.
“It’s amazing to see these kids do this. They have went above and beyond what I ever expected,” said Rawls. “I hope today they realize just how many families they have helped us feed.”
The Store House is currently providing approximately 400 to 450 families each month with boxes of food. As of Monday, during the month of November, 317 Thanksgiving boxes have went to families in need.
“Once you start helping out others, something happens and you begin to love it. It sticks with you. Life is all about helping others and I believe this will stick with them throughout their lives,” said Rawls.
“This also gets to teach them that every single donations counts. You may not be able to alot but if you contribute your part there is a much bigger picture,” added Barb Rawls.
GES principal, Phyllis White says that she could not be more proud of her students and has a special request for the other schools in Mingo County.
“This started out as a small idea and look at what is has grown into,” said White. “We would like to call on all of the other schools in Mingo County to hold a food drive and donate the items to their local food pantry. Imagine what a different we could all make if they all go as well as this one did.”
As students and teachers began laying out some of the food that had been donated, one student stepped back in admiration.
“I feel so good because some of this is what I brought in,” said the student.
White presented the school with the final numbers of the competition and surprised everyone by allowing everyone to enjoy a movie as a treat for all of their hard work and dedication. Pastor Rawls thanked the students for their help before Mayor Livingood declared November 23, GES food drive day.
After the students had left the gymnasium, Rawls and other volunteers at The Store House began loading the donated food into two trucks before taking it to be sorted and stored.
“It is amazing for small children to realize that there is a need in their community,” said Livingood. “For them to help out like this is just amazing.”
Madalin Sammons is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. Madalin can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 304-664-8225.