Students at Trinity Catholic Academy in Brockton pose with food donations collected as part of a program led by middle school religion teacher Andrea Hurm. Courtesy photo
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BROCKTON -- "I've always instilled a sense of service into my students," Andrea Hurm said April 12.
When she came to Brockton's Trinity Catholic Academy in 2020 to teach middle school religion, one of the first things she wanted to know was what kind of service the school community conducted. After consulting the head of school, Dr. Jennifer Roy, and hearing how the coronavirus pandemic limited the types of activities that were possible, she decided to organize something that students, staff, and faculty could all safely participate in: a series of food drives held throughout the academic year.
Hurm came to the academy after the closure of Sacred Heart School in Kingston, where she had been the campus minister for many years. She was greatly influenced by the former principal, Sister Ann Therese Connolly, and former president, Sister Myra Rogers.
One thing that stuck with Hurm was how Sister Ann Therese quoted St. Teresa of Calcutta during one of their Thanksgiving food drives: "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."
She was also inspired by the words and example of Father John Carmichael, pastor of St. Ann By The Sea in Marshfield, who regularly holds food drives and speaks about the need for donations to food pantries.
"That got me thinking, 'Okay, my pastor in Marshfield is collecting food for Brockton. Our school is in Brockton. This is something we should be doing, too, to help our own immediate community," Hurm said.
Before the pandemic and the closure of Sacred Heart School, her students were able to serve people directly by visiting nursing facilities, homeless shelters, and food pantries. But the coronavirus made such close in-person visits impossible or impractical.
When she came to Trinity Catholic Academy, she brainstormed with Dr. Roy, and together they decided to hold food drives to benefit the Charity Guild in Brockton.
"We decided that our mission for 2020-2021 would be to help those who are experiencing hardships, whether temporary or not, within our community," Hurm said.
They waited until after Thanksgiving to hold their first food drive, knowing that food banks receive many donations around the holidays but are often depleted afterwards.
"All of the students, families, faculty, and staff have been overwhelmingly generous with each drive," Hurm said.
Additional help came from outside the school community. Hurm heard from some of her former students, who were now attending Cardinal Spellman High School. They were looking to participate in service projects as part of their induction into the National Honor Society, so they contacted Hurm for ideas.
One of the seniors, Andrew Blake, took charge of the high school students' participation in the academy's food drives. They volunteered their time to help collect and deliver food.
Even outside of the official collections, "There are days when a student or two will quietly contribute items, wanting no pomp and circumstance, or parents drop off items with the secretary," Hurm said.
The Charity Guild is located close to the academy, so if someone brings in a donation independently, Hurm can easily drop it off after the end of the day.
"They're very aware of what is going on in our society right now, they're very aware of the food insecurities. And they, without a doubt, want to help," Hurm said.
In addition to collecting nonperishable food, they have also received and bought gift cards for local restaurants and supermarkets. During one drive, they collected hundreds of dollars, and after consulting the Charity Guild, they used the money to buy gift cards for a nearby grocery store.
The grade eight students took charge of the most recent food drive. They had a contest to design the flyer advertising it, went to each homeroom to collect food, sorted the donations, and loaded them into vehicles for delivery.
Hurm said that the eighth graders "responded beautifully to the challenge."
"I believe that these are our leaders of the future. If you give them the responsibility, then they're going to make things happen," she said.
She said the students, staff, and families of Trinity Catholic Academy "truly portray Christ in their everyday lives."
"Their servant leadership is a powerful example of Christ, and we are extremely proud to be part of such an amazing team," she said.