By Jacob Wucka, Community High school student editor-in- chief of Wildcat Chronicles
In the spirit of giving, West Chicago Community High School came together to help St. Mary’s food pantry feed families this holiday season, as well as make sure every child has a toy under their tree this Christmas.
“The WeGo Beyond Committee is made up of staff that go beyond the classroom to get the school involved in the community,” said Assistant Principal – Student Services Gail Aronoff. “We sat down, and we asked ‘what does the community need?’ We know that there is a food crisis because people don’t have jobs and can’t afford food, so we then began to figure out ways to help the West Chicago St. Mary’s food pantry.”
Although there were many charitable events already active at the high school, water jugs were placed in commons and signs were hung. People were asked to donate whatever change they had to food pantry, and were also asked to bring in canned good, toilet paper, and other necessities.
The drive surprised the pantry’s manager Ken Walker, who has volunteered for almost seven years at the pantry, as he was willing to accept all donations. According to Walker, the pantry fed 837 families in November alone, distributing nearly 18,000 pounds of food.
“Every single inch of this space will be filled, but it will be gone in two weeks, and then we start over again,” said Walker. Working the pantry has become Walker’s passion in life, and he is motivated by the fact that he is helping many people. “The hardest thing for our families to do is walk in the door. My motivation is that when someone walks in that door, they will walk out better than how they walked in,” said Walker.
With everything set for food and toiletry donations, Aronoff still felt like she could do more to help Walker and the families he takes care of.
“We then asked ‘what else can we do to help?’ Well Ken said that he likes to give Christmas gifts to the families at the pantry. So the WeGo Sharks collected toys, and we also received Beanie Babies, and Matchbox cars. We’ve collected hundred and hundreds of toys. If I never see a Beanie Baby again, I’ll be happy,” joked Aronoff.
Also, Aronoff sent volunteers to help at the shelter.
“Because jobs are scarce, students in the BTI [jobs program] can’t find jobs,” said Aronoff. “We have kids doing volunteer work at the pantry to receive the credit for this class. We also three to five special-needs students volunteering as well.” With everything in full swing, donations were coming in from multiple locations. This simple plan to donate some food had grown to a whole new level.
“This whole food drive turned into a huge effort. Our goal was just to support the food pantry, but it became so much more because of everyone’s generosity,” said Aronoff. “The spirit of giving was reflected at our school.”
On Dec. 17, Aronoff along with representatives from Student Council, SkillsUSA, Key Club, Art Club, the Smith Family Foundation, as well as English teachers Shannon Atkian-Sanchez and Richard Kost, who helped organize the food drive, met at the St. Mary’s food pantry to deliver the money raised and the canned goods to Walker.
The event started by each representative of the clubs saying what their club did. Juniors Nici Burlingame and Robbie Windisch of Student Council donated the money from Turkey Suit competitions, in which students donated money for a teacher to wear a turkey costume.
Senior Nadia Yang announced that Art Club had donated $250 dollars out of their budget, without doing any fundraisers. Isabel Pasillas of Quest, the high school’s food service distributor, said that Quest matched all money raised in the water jugs. Quest donated $217 dollars.
Junior Key Club member Brenna MacDonald said that the club did not raise money, but they created and hung all of the signs around the school, and raised awareness of the event.
SkillsUSA members and seniors Emily Tulipano, Angela Gentile, and Kevin Szul collected cans for the food pantry in their annual food drive.
Along with all of the school’s donations, a private foundation, the Smith Family Foundation, donated money, as well as scarves and gloves that they received after hosting a party where each guest was told to bring such items.
In total, the St. Mary’s food pantry received $2025 dollars, and since every dollar donated is worth five times more at the Illinois food bank, in total the pantry received $10125 dollars.
“We didn’t do this to dismiss other great things like WeGo 2 Africa. It’s just another way to give. It’s just an important part of being a good person,” said Aronoff of the event.
The pantry is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Donations are always welcomed, and greatly appreciated.
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