Help us expand our reach! Please share this article
LOWELL -- When a teacher at Immaculate Conception School in Lowell learned that Merrimack Valley Food Bank (MVFB) was suffering because donations were down because of the pandemic, she turned to the IC school community for help. And the school stepped up in a big way, collecting over 1.3 tons of food during the last week of October.
Kelly Farias, who teaches third grade at Immaculate Conception, had the idea to hold a food drive after attending a meeting of the Tewksbury Lions Club, of which she is a member. At the meeting, they discussed the fact that various organizations that usually raise money and hold food drives for MVFB were unable to do so because of the pandemic. The club members brainstormed what they could do to help.
"I know that my ICS community is always willing to help, and I thought, well, maybe I'll bring this to them, because certainly all of our students live in the Merrimack Valley, so each of their communities would benefit," Farias said in a Nov. 19 interview.
Her class also happened to be covering a unit on communities, so the idea also tied in nicely with what students were learning in the classroom.
Each grade was assigned a certain type of item to collect and could also bring in any kind of canned goods. To motivate the students, Farias decided to offer a prize to the class that brought in the most donations: an ice cream sundae party. Every morning, the number of food items collected by each class was reported over the loudspeaker, so each class knew where they stood. As a result, Farias said, the level of competition went "through the roof."
"I really didn't think it was going to be nearly as big as it was," Farias said.
Students and their parents brought "cases and cases" of canned goods, as well as "every toiletry you can imagine." Students carried their donations up the four flights of stairs to Farias' classroom.
Eventually, Farias said, they accumulated so many items that her students could no longer fit in her classroom. She called local grocery stores and asked them to donate boxes to help them store and carry the food. But that still left the matter of how to transport 2,610 pounds of donated goods they had collected.
On Oct. 29, Farias called the Merrimack Valley Food Bank and explained the situation. Within an hour, a truck arrived to pick the donations up.
"I know that the people at the Merrimack Valley Food Bank were thrilled" to receive the donations, Farias said.
The students helped load the truck, carrying the items down the four flights of stairs. They filled the truck with approximately 1,000 pounds of food on Oct. 29, and another 1,000 when it came again on Oct. 30, the last day of the food drive.
"The students were very happy with the results of their collection so they could help families in need," Immaculate Conception School Principal Catherine Fiorino said in an email to The Pilot.
One of the eighth-grade classes won the ice cream party, but Fiorino was "so pleased" with all the grades that everyone received a popsicle treat.
"The children learned to see Jesus in everyone we meet and to be grateful for all they have received," Fiorino said.
The students' generosity has not ended with the food drive: they are now holding a winter clothing drive, collecting hats, scarves, socks, and gloves for the needy.
Farias said the whole community was "incredible" during the food drive.
"I always knew that they were incredible, but they totally blew me away with this. I think everybody was blown away," Farias said.