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Mentor Challenge donates 1,000-plus items to food pantry

By Staff | Nov 22, 2019

Vonnie Degenstein (left) poses with Rugby High School FBLA President Trenton Sanford (center) and Thrivent Financial member Carol Miiller at the Pierce County food pantry. Sue Sitter/PCT

A long line of Rugby High School students carried box after box of grocery items across the campus parking lot to the Pierce County food pantry last Thursday for the Mentor Challenge food drive.

The food drive, sponsored by the school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter, collected more than a thousand food, personal hygiene and cleaning items for area families.

“This year,” said FBLA Adviser Paola Trottier, “we did something different.”

Trottier said groups in the school’s mentor program were given checklists with 15 items to build “complete” boxes of food.

“In a completed box, there’s two soups, three vegetables, two boxed sides, two proteins, two condiments, one juice and two cereals and a dessert,” Trottier explained.

The bottom of the checklist had other items students could donate, such as toiletries or laundry detergent, for one extra point each.

Trottier said after the groups collected the food, “We did a live tally. As we got boxes, we did a tally so the kids would know where they were. Toward the end, we had the totals (broadcast on the school’s closed-circuit televisions) so everyone knew what was going on.”

FBLA President Trenton Sanford noted, “The total of items we collected is 1,330. There were 49 complete boxes, and then, 595 extra items.”

“This year, (Kari) Geisinger’s mentor group won,” Sanford said. “They had 280 points.”

The winning mentor group will be rewarded with a pizza party.

The Mentor Challenge was a contest between mentor groups, who Trottier described as students “divided amongst all the staff. Once a week, we have social/emotional learning time. We get together with our group of kids and we have activities. We get to know them so they can come to us if they need anything.”

Mentor groups use lessons from the “Seven Mindsets” curriculum. “Sometimes, Trottier noted, “we bring snacks. Just in case there are any kids who need additional help, maybe they’ll be more open to asking for help or we could just open their eyes to some things they could be doing for their own friends, for example.”

Since the FBLA is not a mentor group, the club contributed to the drive in a different way, Trottier said.

“We went through Carol Miiller and Thrivent Financial and got $250 for paper products and laundry soap,” Trottier noted, smiling at Miiller, who was at the food bank helping to put donations on tables.

Miiller, a Thrivent member, secured the donation by applying to Thrivent’s “Live Generously” program.

“Some of the staff donated food, and we had a couple of other groups that were not mentor groups donating,” Trottier added.

Vonnie Degenstein, of the food pantry, said she was grateful for the generous donations.

“You did great!” Degenstein said to Trottier and Sanford. “Did you count how many boxes came in?” Degenstein said she was happy to receive donations of both complete and incomplete boxes.

“We are grateful for the food drives,” Degenstein said. “We have (food donations) from the grade school and the high school and (Leever’s Foods) Stuff-A-Truck.”

Degenstein said food pantry donations are usually “good in November and December, and we spread it throughout the year.”

However, Degenstein said, the Pierce County food pantry gladly accepts donations year round.

The Pierce County food pantry is located in the Armory building at 1011 S. Main Avenue. For information, call 776-5597.

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