WEST ORANGE, NJ - The Third Annual Gregory Cares Food Drive and the fifth graders at Gregory Elementary School continued to exceed expectations and brighten the holidays at the Holy Trinity-West Orange Food Pantry.
This year's donations, which arrived at the food pantry on Sun., Dec. 15, filled a U-Haul Truck driven by Eric Hains, the husband of Amy Hains, this year's volunteer organizer. Over 160 Gregory neighborhood families donated the hundreds of bags of groceries that filled the truck from front to back.
Ethan Stambler and his family, the organizers of the Gregory Cares Food Drive in 2011 and 2012, were on hand to assist, lend expertise and volunteer once again.
"This appears to be more than last year," remarked Michelle Bloschock, daughter of Alice Hoffman, the Food Pantry Founder who passed away in October. "It's unbelieveable."
The drive actually began with planning meetings and emails in early November, and was targeted to deliver non-perishables to the pantry in mid-December. Emails and flyers were then distributed to the Gregory neighborhood and a website was made available for people to sign up to contribute. On the final day, volunteers picked up the donations at neighbors' homes. This year, Gregory Cares rented a U-Haul to deliver the bags directly to the pantry where a team of volunteers were waiting to bring in the donations, sort them and put them away.
The Gregory Cares team spent the morning picking up donations and delivered them to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church at 1:00 p.m. It took volunteers over four hours to sort and put away all the donated items.
In addition to the food drive, Gregory Elementary School fifth graders, under the supervision of Michele Thompson, principal, and Carla Magnotta, administrator, worked with Elizabeth Lewis and Lenora Issac, coordinators, to assist in assembling 40 toiletry bags for their fifth grade service project. The bags contained items including shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, and more. Amy Hains picked up the bags from Gregory School and dropped them to the food pantry on Dec. 20, where pantry volunteers immediately began distributing them to adults.
Although the effort was monumental and the Gregory Cares organizers were exhausted, hearts were lifted, learning opportunities for children abounded, and the results provided much needed provisions for the food pantry, which has struggled procuring food over the past few months.
"West Orange continues to be an incredibly generous community when it comes to helping the struggling families here," noted Cynthia Cumming, the Food Pantry Administrator. "The Gregory Cares Food Drive is our largest donation of the year, and Gregory school has always gone the extra mile to help us as well. The Holidays will definitely be brighter for our food pantry families this month, and these donations will help us through January."