WEST CHAZY - Reading, writing and arithmetic may be the fundamentals of early education, but Beekmantown Elementary School continues to instill a sense of social responsibility in its students as well. And, they're enthusiastic about the idea.
The school's more than 400 students participated in a Thanksgiving food drive Nov. 4-20, collecting nearly 2,000 nonperishable items. The food was used to assemble Thanksgiving dinners for underprivileged families within the school district, with the remainder donated to the Beekmantown Food Shelf.
School reading specialist Nancy McCormick said she's helped oversee the Thanksgiving food drive for the past five years, with the help of colleague Sharon Carlin. The two are advisors to the school's Kids Council, which is a version of student council for the fourth and fifth grade students, she explained.
Though the club annually initiates the food drive, the rest of the school also pitches in to help in the effort, said McCormick. This year, the drive collected "much more" food than what has been collected in previous years, she said.
"It was fabulous. I think part of the reason is we have more students participating in the Kids Council this year," said McCormick, who noted approximately 30 students are enrolled in the group. "I also think it's because of the challenge we had to see what grade levels could collect the most food. We haven't had a challenge like that in a while."
The challenge involved keeping a daily tally of food collected on a large graph near the school's main entrance, with the top-collecting classes winning an ice cream social from Stewart's Shops.
"I think that helped bring in quite a bit of food," said McCormick.
In the end, two multi-age classrooms comprised of students in grades 2-5, donated the most, with a grand total of 512 items.
Fifth-grader Bailee Mull, who participated in the food drive last year, was glad to help out again this year.
"It was fun doing the food drive," said Bailee. "It feels good because I'm helping kids and families that don't really have that much. I think we did a very good job and we had fun at the same time."
"It made me feel pretty happy," fifth-grader Alexis Marking said about collecting food. "We're helping a lot of people."
Everett Sapp, also a fifth grade student, said it "felt good helping other people who don't have as much."
"One girl brought in like 30 cans. We really raised a lot in our class," said Everett.
Principal Matthew J. Slattery said he was proud of the efforts of the students and staff who worked hard to help fill lines in the graph and fill boxes with donations.
"We are very proud of our students and families for their participation in this service project," said Slattery, who also credited Hannaford for donating turkeys and Pray's Farmers Market for donating potatoes toward the Thanksgiving dinners. "The kids had a lot of fun doing it. And, Stewart's making the ice cream donation was a great incentive, in my opinion."
"We need to thank everybody in our school, because without the help of the parents who give the food to the kids and everybody helping getting it all collected and counted and packed up, it wouldn't happen," added McCormick. "It was very much a school-wide effort."