By Claire Walla
There are two-dozen empty boxes in the hallway at Sag Harbor Elementary School, and Guidance Counselor Michelle Grant’s office is piled high with food. Luckily, 19 of Mrs. Cosgrove’s fourth-graders are waiting at the entrance, “shopping lists” in hand, eager to collect a healthy balance of non-perishable food items substantial enough to fill an empty cardboard box.
“Try to pick things you’d want yourself,” Grant tells the kids just before they’re let loose in her office. However, Mrs. Cosgrove’s students aren’t shopping for themselves, they’re shopping for the community.
Monday morning, November 22, marked the tail-end of the Sag Harbor Elementary School Food Drive, which, during the course of two weeks, brought in a total of 1,513 food items — 46 more than last year. Though Branch said the classes can get competitive with one another, in the end she tries to convey the message that “overall, the winner is the food pantry.”
After all food is sorted into nutritional categories — grains, fruits, veggies and fats — and an even mix of items from each category is rounded up and boxed, some boxes are distributed directly to those families in the Sag Harbor community in need of a little extra help this holiday season. Branch added that 14 of these families are also a part of the Sag Harbor Elementary School community. Whatever’s left over will go to the food pantry.
Sag Harbor Elementary School’s annual food drive is just one of the efforts put forth by local schools in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
In conjunction with the St. Andrew’s Church Youth Group, teens from Stella Maris and other schools participated in a bake sale at the parish hall on Saturday, November 20, during which they made over 200 pies, 170 of which they sold, raising $2,000. Youth group leader Mary Samot, 22, who helped organize the event, said she and other youth group members went to Upper Seven Ponds Farm to pick their own apples on Thursday, then spent Friday peeling and cutting in preparation for Saturday’s big bake.
While some of the money will go toward supporting youth group activities, the bulk of pie-sale profits — in addition to 38 pies — will be donated to the Sag Harbor food pantry for Thanksgiving Day meals.
This year at Bridgehampton School, students not only participated in a food drive, they got a jump-start on Christmas as well by participating in a project called Operation Christmas Child, sponsored by a national organization called Samaritan’s Purse. This is the third year the Bridgehampton Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) has put together the project and students are asked to bring in shoe boxes filled with toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and extras like lollipops or hair clips.
“They’re filled with the things many of us take for granted here,” said Bridgehampton teacher and PTO member Ninfa Boyd.
This year the school collected around 100 boxes, which students brought to the gym on November 16 for an “All-School Shoebox Packing Night.” After wrapping the boxes in holiday paper, the school sent these gifts to Samaritan’s Purse, which will now distribute them to less fortunate children in countries around the world.
“The best thing for me was being able to write a personal card to go in the box,” said 11th grade student and student council member Jolene Ressing, Though optional, some students wrote letters and included their mailing address with the box they sent out.
“We got a letter from Africa last year,” Boyd said.
Student council president, 9th grader Annabel Degroot, added that a classmate of hers also received a card back from India.
“This year we’re hoping for Haiti,” Boyd said. “But we don’t know where they’ll be sent.”
As the Bridgehampton student council gears up for December, Degroot added that she and other student council members plan to continue the spirit of giving by following the traditions of years past, like placing a “Giving Tree” in the Bridgehampton National Bank. The ornaments on this tree will include the name and age of a child, plus a gift, allowing members of the community to buy Christmas presents for those less fortunate than themselves.
Student council members will pick up these gifts in their “little mini-bus” on the way to the food pantry, thus filling said mini-bus with piles of presents and food to be distributed to the community.
“It’s a little squished,” said student council member and 9th grader Olivia Bono with a grin.
However, Degroot concluded, “I feel really good about what we do.”
When asked why they put so much effort into holiday service projects, Bono added, “If I was in need of something, I hope someone would give back to me.”