Students stuff high school with donations

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A 370,000-square-foot school might be hard to “stuff,” but that did not stop students in the Eastport South Manor School District from trying.

Throughout December, students in grades seven through 12 participated in the district’s second annual holiday “stuff-a-school” project, an initiative aimed at collecting food, clothing, pet supplies and more, all of which was donated to community organizations in time for the holidays.

Six school groups—Interact Club, the Science Club, the Key Club, Students Aiding Living Things, the class of 2011 and the National Honor Society—held donation drives to benefit the local organizations.

The goods were collected and placed near the main entrance of the Eastport South Manor High School, located on Moriches-Middle Island Road in Manorville. The beneficiaries of the project included Eastport Bible Church, Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Manorville, Little Flower Children’s Services in Wading River, Kent Animal Shelter in Riverhead, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, as well as other organizations and local families.

ESM High School Assistant Principal Brian O’Sullivan said he took the initiative in organizing the ambitious initiative. “We decided to coordinate it into one big project,” Mr. O’Sullivan said. “It was a district-wide effort.”

Mr. O’Sullivan explained that all donations were due by this Tuesday, at which time staff members loaded all of the goods onto their cars and drove them to their respective destinations. A total of 2,000 items had been collected during the drive.

“This year really grew from last year,” Mr. O’Sullivan said. “It definitely exceeded my expectations.”

Members of the class of 2011, who are currently sophomores at the high school, sponsored a coat drive and collected nearly 200 winter coats for the less fortunate. Class representative Annkatherine Capersino noted that this year the need for donated coats is greater than ever.

“It started because of the way things are going in the economy,” she said of the donation drive. “I thought people around here could afford to donate one or two coats.”

She noted that, as of Monday, her classmates had collected nearly 200 coats. “There are more still coming,” she added.

Mary Flanagan, a music teacher and the school’s National Honor Society advisor, brought a group of about 35 students to the Cedar Lodge Nursing Home, located on Frowein Road in Center Moriches, to visit the facility’s residents. There the students sang holiday songs, helped senior citizens make arts and crafts, and donated flowers to residents.

“A lot of the seniors were singing,” Ms. Flanagan said. “One lady burst into Italian.”

Ms. Flanagan said sophomore Elizabeth Hammil’s performance of “Christmas Chopsticks” caused some seniors to begin dancing. “Liz really had them moving,” she said.

Elizabeth is also a member of the high school’s Key Club. She explained that members once again collected new and unwrapped pajamas to donate to Little Flower Children’s Services in Wading River. “We did better than last year,” she said.

Diana Sherwood, a seventh-grader and a member of Students Aiding Living Things, said her group collected donations, including food, toys, treats and bones, for the Kent Animal Shelter in Riverhead. “We collected everything an animal would like,” she said.

Kelly Jo McCarthy is a member of the Interact Club, a service organization that is a subset of the Moriches Rotary Club. She noted that her organization created a “giving tree,” a holiday tree near the high school’s main entrance that is decorated with nearly 200 ornaments. Each ornament had the name and age of a child in need written on it, as well as that child’s desired gift.

Students each took an ornament with the goal of fulfilling their child’s holiday wish. Nearly 500 toys were donated, according to Kelly.

Junior Peter Taisler, the president of the high school’s Science Club and a member of the Eastport Bible Church, said the parish’s food pantry usually feeds about 100 families during the holiday season. Science Club members were able to augment the pantry’s supply this year by holding their own canned food drive.

“We have quite a full food pantry,” Peter said. “I was happy I was able to do this.”

Fellow junior and Science Club member David Wicks said he was glad for the chance to take part in the project. “It feels good,” he said. “And it is a lot of fun.”

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