• 46°

Chesapeake class operates food pantry to help needy students

CHESAPEAKE — Students at Chesapeake Middle School are making a difference.

Helping Hands is an after-school class that meets at the school, and since the fall has organized a food pantry for fellow students.

Angie Bragg, an adviser for the group, said both monetary and food donations are collected, and then distributed to needy students through referrals from teachers.

“It started out with kids who wanted to volunteer,” she said. “They found businesses in the area and wrote letters for donations.”

Bragg said the needy cases are kept anonymous, and the group is hoping to expand its efforts to help more.

“We hope, when we’re more sustainable, to send letters to parents for sign-ups,” she said. “Right now, we’re going by the highest needs.

The pantry started out in Bragg’s classroom, before moving to its own room, a former storage area.

On Thursday, volunteers Alicia Lowe, of the fifth grade, and Olivia Lowe and Brecka Ridenour, of the seventh grade, were packing up bags to be distributed to individuals.

“We fill out the bags for kids,” Alicia said. “We pack them with different things for breakfast.”

Lowe said they pack the bags, which usually number about 24, on Thursdays, to be distributed by parent volunteers on Fridays.

The students said they were unaware of the need at the school and were somewhat shocked to know there were some who were going hungry.

One of the group’s donors was Armstrong Cable, who recently featured the volunteers in a short documentary.

Bragg, who works with administrator Courtney Ridenour, who is Brecka’s mother, said the number of volunteers varies, depending on student schedules. At times, they have as many as nine, but, with athletics under way, the group was smaller for Thursday’s work.

She said they hope Helping Hands can expand to other areas at the school, such as tutoring.

The class is an elective for the students, and goes toward qualifying the school for its community service grant.

With the school year and the after-school program winding down, Bragg said she is in the process of putting together a list of services and options in the area, so that students can continue to have their needs met over the summer.