The shelves of the pantry at Lehigh Community Services at 201 Plaza Dive are nearly full today after one of the largest gifts of food ever collected for the agency was delivered to them on Oct. 31.
Kim Conrad, a senior counselor with Mirror Lakes Elementary School, said some 140 students there collected 6,850 cans of food and several other boxes of different types of foods.
All totaled, the food weighs almost 6,500 pounds. The Kiwanis Club provided a truck and delivery men to pick up the food last week to deliver to Lehigh Community Services.
Mirror Lakes students, from left, Livan Thelusma, Emilee Graf, Jayden Thelusma and Aryanna Boriapagan. Their team collected more than three tons of canned goods for Lehigh Community Services.
"Rae Nicely, the director there had told me a few weeks back that the pantry shelves were running a little low because of the great demand for food by the less fortunate. So we at the school decided to do a quick food drive and our students outdid themselves," Comrad said.
Nicely said the one-time collection of food, boxes and boxes, were to be place on pantry shelves this past weekend.
"Next to the annual collection by the U.S. Postal Service, it is one of the largest gifts of food we have had," Nicely said. "And I am so appreciative of the students at the school and Kim Conrad who oversaw the food drive," Nicely said.
Comrad said students worked the entire month of October and the food was all collected and even divided up into categories. Students asked friends and neighbors and their parents to donate to the food drive.
"It was like a miracle that they collected so much food so fast," Comrad said. The school, under Comrad's supervision, does several things throughout the year that help others in the community. Several other schools also have similar drives to collect food, she said.
"I think this is a great way to teach our kids that it is important to help others. It seems that we live in a world today where so many people want things for themselves immediately without regard for others.
"Projects like the food drives we do teach our students how important it is to collect food so those who are less fortunate are able to eat," Comrad said.
Already students are now collecting toiletry items to be given to those in need, Comrad said. And then with Thanksgiving coming up, we are making plans for handing out food to many families of students in the school who could use the help.
"We're given lots of turkeys by the Kiwanis and teachers and students here collect what we call the 'fixings' and just before the holiday, we hand out the food to the parents of children.
"These families find themselves in dire straits and it is because of the economic times we are in. It is our job to help others and that is what our students at Mirror Lakes are learning and we hope it will stay with them for their entire lives and become community oriented in the years to come," Comrad said.
Ray Nicely, who runs Lehigh Community Services, said she couldn't praise the students more and was surprised at the vast amount of food they were able to collect.
"In fact the people of this community are so generous. We have so many people who bring food to us and so many groups that collect food and it stays in Lehigh is handed out to deserving families that need it," she said.
Comrad noted that there are agencies in Fort Myers who encourage food drives but she believes that if the local schools collect food, it is better to give it to the Lehigh Community Services directly. That doesn't include the Harry Chapin Food Bank which brings food to Lehigh on a regular basis, said Comrad, who for the past five years has been a member of Lehigh Community Services.
She said the students that helped to oversee the project were what are called "K Kids" who are part of a program supported by the Lehigh Kiwanis Club, which operates a large thrift store and gives to the community its proceeds.
Conrad said the students that collected the food and their teachers were treated to a big pizza party last Thursday.