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Ely fifth graders collect items for food pantry

By Staff | Dec 21, 2018

Ely Elementary fifth graders with the items they collected for the Pierce County Food Pantry. Submitted photo

Ely Elementary School’s fifth graders teamed up with their schoolmates for their “Kids With Character” project in November and collected more than 1,200 food items for the Pierce County Food Pantry.

But this year, the students had other helpers besides family and friends.

Substitute teacher Carol Miiller, a member of Thrivent Financial, said she saw the project as a perfect opportunity to form what Thrivent calls an “Action Team” to raise money for the students to donate along with the food.

Pointing to her powder blue t-shirt reading, “Live Generously,” Miiller explained, “When you see t-shirts like this, that means that somebody has applied (at Thrivent) for $250 to help a project.”

“We have an action involved with this project,” noted Becky Hill of Hills and Plains Associates/Thrivent Financial in Bottineau. “And this had an action.”

Hill indicated Thrivent’s members are encouraged to participate in their Action Team program, and submit an idea for a charitable project and a plan to carry it out. Thrivent may contribute up to $250 in seed money to fund the plans they approve.

However, Miiller learned the food pantry project for Cassie Duchscher and Corinne Risovi’s classes was eligible for an even bigger contribution when she applied for the money.

Miiller said Katie Lewis, a member network specialist in Thrivent’s Fargo office, contacted her to let her know food pantry projects qualify for a match of $1 for every item collected, up to $500.

“When I got the email from the corporate office, I thought, hey, we could get the $500,” Miiller recalled.

“And they did,” Hill said and smiled.

Miiller indicated a text she had received from Lewis that read, “Amazing! So far, your group has brought the most amount of items. Congrats! I have received your entry, and will get a check sent to your food shelf in December!”

Hill said Thrivent’s North Dakota branches contributed $30,000 toward food bank projects throughout the state this year.

Hill and Miiller presented a $500 check to Ely Principal Jason Gullickson for the school to donate to the food pantry. “You’re very gracious, and we appreciate it,” he told them.

Pierce County Food Pantry Director Vonnie Degenstein said the food collected from Ely students, faculty and family was a portion of “5,500 pounds of food (from donations during recent weeks).”

“And this will go a long way,” Degenstein said of the $500 check.

“The kids (in the community) did the drive last year, too,” Degenstein continued. “Between the high school, and the grade school and the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) and the Stuff the Truck (a program through Leevers Supermarket to collect donated groceries), our shelves are really good,” she smiled. “So, we’ll go all year long.”

Teacher Corinne Risovi said the Ely fifth graders put lots of work into their project, which involved asking other classes and school personnel for donations throughout the month.

Risovi said that after the students collected all the food from the classrooms, “They did all the counting, sorting, loading, unloading and stacking food for this.”

“We had a contest to see whose classes would donate the most food,” Risovi added, “and the winners ended up being Mr. Santjer’s 6th grade class, and Mrs. Foster’s 4th grade class.”

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