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"A fantastic way to bring the community together"

posted Jan 10, 2018, 12:43 PM by Jen Audley   [ updated Jan 17, 2018, 8:14 AM ]

Did you see the great article about the districtwide food drive at in the January 4, 2018 issue of The Montague Reporter? Here it is, reprinted with permission.

GMRSD Food Drive ... A Huge Success!


TURNERS FALLS – Gill Montague Regional School District recently had a food drive to help support Montague Catholic Social Ministries, and it was a huge hit at my school, Great Falls Middle School!

My school turned the food drive into a friendly competition between students and staff. If the students won, the staff would have to do the chicken dance at an all-school meeting, and if the staff won, the students would spend a CPR meeting (a small amount of time we have in the morning with our homeroom) doing community service around the school.

I am still awaiting the winner! The winner will be determined by the percent of their goal they have reached. The staff’s goal was 200 items, and the students’ goal was 500, considering there are around 250 students and only about 40 staff.

[Update: We followed up with the author, who reported that the winner was announced after the article went to press. "The Staff won :( We collected like 450 or something and they collected about 200, so we collected more, but they raised a higher percentage of their goal, so they won :( ."]

Other schools in the district involved in this drive were the Turners Falls High School, Hillcrest Elementary School, Sheffield Elementary School, and Gill Elementary School.

All in all, our district collected 1,500 items for Montague Catholic Social Ministries. The Great Falls Middle School collected the most: a total of 606 items. That is awesome!

As Lesley Cogswell – a parent, a member of the Friends of Sheffield and Friends of Hillcrest, and a very enthusiastic and active member of our community – said, “We chose this time of year because it seems like it is the most important time of need, and a time of giving. All this food will keep their pantry full until March!”

I wondered why they picked Montague Catholic Social Ministries. “Last year we did one with them, but only some local schools contributed,” Cogswell said. “So this year we made it a much bigger thing and we committed to filling the shelves at MCSM for a second year!”

Fun fact: In May 2017, the entire school district was awarded MCSM’s “Volunteer of the Year” award for our contributions to their food pantry.

My little sister Markie goes to Sheffield Elementary School. “I’ll tell you how the food drive worked at Sheffield,” she said. “You bring your food you brought into your classroom, and then you put your food in the box your teacher has in your classroom, and they all collect it on Friday. I brought in food because we’re competing in a competition. It’s grade versus grade.” The student council was a huge help with the drive at Sheffield under the direction of the assistant principal, Mrs. Limoges.

Cogswell said that every Friday at Gill Elementary School, Jen Audley from the Gill-Montague Community School Partnership and her stepson Emmett Larkin-Harmon would go to Gill, check all the food’s expiration dates, and count everything up. They were a tremendous help.

At Hillcrest and Sheffield, Lesley Cogswell and her brother Ryan McCord would gather all the food they had collected that week, and bring it to MCSM. A few first-graders from Hillcrest brought food to the truck each week, too! McCord, Geralyn Johnson, Janice George, and Cogswell picked the food up at Great Falls Middle School (GFMS), too.

Hillcrest students helping

This food drive was really a fantastic way to bring the community together. The drive lasted for about three weeks: pretty much all schools started around November 20, and ended by December 15. Mary Conway, MCSM’s Basic Needs Coordinator, was very appreciative of the help our school district gave to the community.

The way the food drive worked in my CPR is that Mr. Brewster, who taught my CPR, had two cardboard boxes: one that said Students, and one that said Staff. The students brought their donations in the student bin, and the staff put theirs in the staff bin.

The student council at GFMS, led by Ms. Mason and Ms. Krems, was in charge of getting people excited about the food drive and organizing it. “Our Student Council members have been really invested and have expressed how good this type of community work makes them feel,” Ms. Mason said. “They are excited to collect and count all the donations on Friday, and fill out our progress charts, which they have designed to look like Campbell’s Soup cans.”

One of Markie’s best friends at Sheffield, Ethan Damkoehler, was very excited about the food drive. “I was in this grocery store, and I went to an aisle that had mac and cheese and ravioli,” Ethan said. “So I told my mom that none of the people in my class bring food in for the food drive.

Sheffield Elementary School's Silver Can Award

“I wanted to get some macaroni and ravioli because it was a competition – the grades were racing to see which grade could collect the most food, so I wanted to get food so our grade would be winning. So we got two packs of mac and cheese, and two packs of ravioli. My grade [third grade] ended up being in second place!”

The third grade was very close to winning, but the fourth grade ended up pulling ahead in the last week. They will be awarded with the Silver Can Award.

Even though the food drive is over, you can still help! Donate to MCSM, or to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. These organizations help so many people in need. Who knows – maybe what you donate will go to someone who works with you, or to the person who sits right next to you in school!