Students strive to fill a bus for families in need

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Dec. 13, 2011
Checking in some donated food are (l-r): Katelynn, Maggie, supervisor and English teacher Andrew McNamar and Angelo. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Checking in some donated food are (l-r): Katelynn, Maggie, supervisor and English teacher Andrew McNamar and Angelo. Photos by Melanie Savage.

It was chilly the afternoon of Dec. 10, but that didn’t deter a group of Windham High School students, teachers and administrators who doggedly stood at the edge of High Street from morning until afternoon. The group held signs reading “Fill the Bus,” with the bus in question standing behind them on the front lawn of the school.

“This is part of our fourth annual food drive,” said Windham English teacher and activity advisor Andrew McNamar. Several years ago, McNamar facilitated a consolidation of various food drives taking place throughout the community. “We turned it into a school-wide drive,” he said. At first, the event collected food items at grocery stores and other local retailers. Due to changes in policy and a slumping economy, the event has gradually lost its collection locations. So the bright yellow school bus will this year serve as the major collection point.

“We’re dealing with the economy in some ways,” said McNamar. Last year, the Windham High School food drive collected a total of 6,200 items. “This year, we have a goal of 3,300 items,” said McNamar. “We try to shoot for about a month’s worth of food for each family.” Currently, McNamar has 20 families on his list, all of which were identified by the Salvation Army. If there are leftover items, as there have been in years past, they will go to the Covenant Soup Kitchen.

The Fill a Bus event coordinates with an internal school effort, with students bringing in items for donation. “After lunch on Monday, Dec. 19, we’ll turn the cafeteria into a mini grocery store,” said McNamara. Students will be assigned a family to “shop” for. Then on Tuesday, Dec. 20, volunteer teachers and students will personally deliver the groceries. “It’s great for the students to be able to get out into the community,” said McNamar. “It’s really amazing to hear them get excited - to really get to see who you’re affecting, and to see the gratitude. It really defines what community should be. We’re here to support one another.”

Demographically, Windham is a poor school. “Lots of our students themselves qualify for free lunch,” said McNamar. But students appreciate the opportunity to help out with the food drive. “It gives them the opportunity to help families that might be even worse off financially than they are,” said McNamar.

There was certainly plenty of enthusiasm the afternoon of Dec. 10, as students waved their signs for passersby. They were joined by McNamar, Windham High School Principal Albie Harris and Windham Superintendent Ana Ortiz. “The administration is really supportive,” said McNamar.

McNamar hopes to be able to move back into the community as the economy improves, and to continue to expand the yearly drive. If every member of the school community gave just 10 items, “That’s 10,000 items right there,” he said. “I’d really like to make it grow. The opportunity is there. This is an important part of who we are now. As we move forward, I’m hoping that Windham High School becomes known as an intricate part of the community.”

Windham High School is accepting food items and/or monetary donations (to be used for perishables) until Dec. 19. Drop your donation at the school office at 355 High St.

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