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Packing in the Principal

Students in DeWitt, Iowa, surpass their goal to feed the hungry and make things a little tight for their principal along the way.


Gathered around a board room table, the St. Joseph School Student Council voted to set a goal of 1,000 total items for its school’s annual food collection to benefit the local Referral Center. Principal Sharon Roling (of Marquette 811, Dubuque, Iowa) looked cautiously confident in her students’ passion to give back to their community. Before meeting with the Student Council, Sharon had told members of Catholic Order of Foresters’ Fraternal Outreach Team that 900 would be a huge (yet doable) goal to set as it would break down to about nine items per student. These children wanted a bigger challenge, and they certainly rose to it.

The school had already been participating in the parish’s annual Thanksgiving food drive for a few years, but Sharon and teacher Brenda McKone were looking at how to make it more engaging and exciting for the kids. Through a Fraternal Outreach Workshop, they decided to present the student council with the idea of themed days – such as “Mac and Cheese Monday” and “Treats Tuesday” – for the food drive. When the question of where they were going to put all the food arose, Sharon offered her office as its home. “Well, I will have to put tape down to make sure I don’t get packed in,” quipped Sharon. Suddenly, the idea for an additional challenge was presented: could the students collect enough items to pack in their principal? They were certainly going to try.

After presenting the idea to the Student Council, the kids decided what each of the theme days would be, how many items they would collect, and what the prize would be for the class that brought in the most items. The collection would last November 4 to November 15 with the second week being the themed week. On the first day of the drive, students donated 99 items. Clearly, these kids meant business. As the two weeks progressed, Sharon’s office quickly became overwhelmed with items. “I have never seen the students so excited about the food drive before,” Sharon said. At the end of the two weeks, the students had collected just under 3,000 food and personal care items for the Referral Center! They had tripled their goal! Brenda commented, “It is just so great! The students really took the idea and ran with it. They’re just thrilled with the result.” The winning class brought in 21 items per student.

Before the students walked the items – using their own wagons –to the Referral Center, the whole school celebrated Mass. Fr. Page spoke about how it was everyone’s job to help take care of our brothers and sisters in Christ. He shared how proud he was of the students and all they had accomplished over the past two weeks, and a collective nod in agreement was shared by all the teachers. Everyone and all the donated the items were blessed by the priest.

Quickly, the students ran to their bags and wagons and made the half mile journey to drop off the items.  One student shouted, “I wish we could do this every day!” while another added, “I wish I had brought in more!” With the Referral Center shelves overflowing, it was clear these kids answered the call of Matthew 25.

Article by Kaitlynrose Bicek.

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