By Megan Erbacher
The Message assistant editor
On a cold November afternoon, Benedictine Sister Donna Marie Herr recited a motto of St. Vincent de Paul, “Help us help others,” as she waited for an annual delivery to the food pantry. As coordinator of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry & Office of Emergency Assistance, Sister Donna Marie said Resurrection School students have “really helped us help others” for many years.
Resurrection School declared War on Hunger in November, and throughout a weeklong competition students collected non-perishable food and toiletry items. At the end of the week, on Nov. 22, a convoy of vehicles delivered the donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.
About 25 Resurrection House Council members in grades 5-8 helped load and deliver the items. Students far exceeded their goal to fill four truckloads and a trailer by filling an additional three large sport-utility-vehicles.
Students also collected and made a “very sizeable” cash donation of $1,669.
The St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, located at 809 N. Lafayette in Evansville, serves about 2,800 people a month, Sister Donna Marie said, or 1,200 low-income households monthly. Eligibility to receive assistance is every 30 days.
The food pantry, which is part of Evansville’s seven-pantry Emergency Food Pantry System of Evansville, relies on donations and grants to help needy families. In her 12th year as coordinator, Sister Donna Marie said the annual donations from Resurrection School “help so much.”
“The kids get so enthused about it, and they like to come,” she said. “There are several Resurrection students who come with a grandparent on a day when they’re not in school, so they know the place. They like coming, and they enjoy helping others. We always need food, and we were in need of food. So we’re really grateful.”
The War on Hunger food drive was “very eye-opening” for eighth-grader Aubree Beyer. The House Council President for House Scholastica said it’s important to help others in the community who are less fortunate to make sure they have what they need.
“I’ve learned that generosity goes a long way,” Beyer, 14, said. “And helping people out always comes back around.”
The War on Hunger is a schoolwide competition between grade levels. Students earn 1-point for canned food, and boxed food can be used to “bomb” other grades to subtract 1-point from their total. Students also earned 5-points if they brought in the “hot item,” or item of the day. Those items were special requests from food pantry personnel and included pork and beans, canned tuna, cereal, dish detergent and toothpaste.
Resurrection first-grade teacher Jennifer Schmitz said the school has held the War on Hunger canned food drive for at least 25 years. Schmitz said it’s all about helping.
“We want students to learn how to give back, to think outside themselves and to keep the needs of others in the forefront,” she said. “We talked a lot in my classroom about how we have winners for who brings in the most (canned foods), but the winners really are the people being assisted. It’s not about us winning prizes.”
The food pantry not only relies on donations and grants, Sister Donna Marie said, but it wouldn’t run without the roughly 100 people who volunteer their time.
“We have so many wonderful volunteers who are so willing to help in any way. … I feel very grateful for all of the people who help us make it possible to help others,” she said. “Many times clients express their gratitude, and you get to know people after a while. We know that every person has a story, and they’re not just a number. We don’t always know their story, but every person is valuable.”
Before Resurrection students showed up to drop-off donations, Sister Donna Marie shared a favorite quote: “People may not remember what you did for them, but they will remember how you made them feel.”
Sister Donna Marie said she strives to remember that and live by it.
“We have heard the plight of the local food pantries and we are doing our part to help fill their shelves for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday,” Resurrection Principal Theresa Berendes said in a statement. “Our students have competed this week, but they know in the end we are all doing this to help those less fortunate than we are.”