FLORIDA, Mass. — Abbott Memorial School donated 1,508 items to the Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry in North Adams as part of its Project 351 Food Drive.
"The outpouring of support to help others through food contributions by Gabriel Abbott Memorial School students and families was staggering," Principal Martin McEvoy Jr. said. "It is another reflection of the colossal empathy, generosity, and spirit of the community. To realize how willing the school community was to help their neighbors, even while facing formidable challenges, of their own, says so much."
Project 351 is an independent nonprofit organization that fosters youth-led service by engaging ambassadors from each of Massachusetts' 351 cities and towns.
The ambassadors this year from Abbott were 8th-graders Ryleigh Rathbun of Florida, Amari Smith of Monroe and Marley Miner of Savoy. These students lead the program.
"We are very proud of the ambassadors representing Florida and the two towns with whom our school has a tuition agreement," McEvoy said. "... These student-leaders did an amazing job of planning and executing the drive, along with the project's coordinator, second-grade teacher/Assistant Principal Denise Chesbro."
The entire school was involved, and McEvoy said the 103 students who attend the small school, which is part of the Northern Berkshire School Union, collected 1,340 pounds in just nine days.
"I was surprised that a school of our small size could collect a total of 1,340 pounds of food, but not surprised at the level of generosity and goodwill shown by the Abbott Memorial school community," he said. "I have come to learn quickly how caring and supportive the school community and town is of its kids, school, and larger community."
He added that the school has participated in many fundraising and donation efforts over the years. He said giving back is most definitely part of the Abbott Memorial education.
"The parameters of public education today are ever-broadening in order to put students in the best position to live productive, meaningful, and happy lives in a constantly changing, complex world," he said. "One of the overriding and critical outcomes of education, which we focus on here at Abbott, is to prepare students to become engaged, thoughtful, and contributing members of society.
In fact, this project gave us the opportunity to live our school's vision, which we collectively developed at the beginning of this school year: 'At Abbott, we strive everyday to nurture growth, love of learning, and a sense of community in the Berkshires and beyond!'"