POLAND — Students at Poland Middle School put in some time after school on Friday as they loaded multiple pickup trucks, a bus and a van with food collected in a food drive this month.
The school has been helping the Poland Food Bank for more than two decades.
“The food drive has been happening even before I started working at the middle school, which was 16 years ago,” said math teacher Alaina McMahon. “Seventh- and eighth-grade student councils have always organized the food drive since I have been a teacher in the district. I teamed up with guidance counselor, Wendy Butch, four years ago when grades 3 to 5 moved into the McKinley Elementary building. Now our food drive is for grades 3 to 8.”
For McKinley grades 3 to 5, the food was collected by homeroom teachers. For Poland Middle School grades 6 to 8, the food was collected in the math teachers’ classrooms.
The two math teachers, McMahon and Janice Hohloch, made a competition out of it for the math students. They formed teams called Team Synergy and Team Infinity. The results of the contest will not be available for some time as totals have to be calculated, but the real winner is the food bank, a six-church endeavor based at the Poland United Methodist Church.
“I am glad that our students are able to help support families that live in their own community,” McMahon said. “Our students did an amazing job of getting excited about helping others. For two weeks our students proudly walked in with their food donations, which brought a positive energy throughout both buildings (McKinley and Poland Middle School). As teachers, it is so rewarding to know that we are helping our students not only learn content, but how to be better human beings in this ever-changing world.”
McMahon said the food drive is normally held in November. Because of the pandemic, the decision was made to move it.
“I thought it was in our best interest to get settled into the school year and hold the food drive in the spring,” McMahon said.
Neither moving it nor the pandemic slowed down the students’ giving attitudes. Poland Middle School Principal David Purins said even the remote learners had their parents dropping off food.
“The heart of our kids and the community is overwhelming, even in a year with challenges such as COVID-19,” Purins said. “It is amazing to see the impact these young people have made.”
McMahon said over the past eight years she has served as Student Council Adviser, the seventh and eighth graders have consistently donated about four to five months worth of food to the Poland Food Pantry. This year’s donation seems to be beyond that amount, but McMahon said it is what the students are getting out of this that is so important.
“I believe our students will learn the true meaning of helping those in need,” she said. “When they saw the pile of food growing each day in the classrooms, they got more excited and wanted to do more. This food drive shows students that when you work together for the good of others the reward is knowing that you can make a difference.”