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Chester County Press

The community lends a hand in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

01/19/2015 01:13PM ● By J. Chambless

Families at Pocopson Elementary School donated sports equipment.

An annual tradition in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., continued on the morning of Jan. 19 as students, parents and family members in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District used a day off school to extend a helping hand to others.

Delayed by half an hour due to icy conditions on some area roadways, the events got rolling at about 10 a.m. as families gathered at each of the district's schools.

At Hillendale Elementary School, cafeteria tables were set with the makings of 300 lunches that would be prepared and taken to the Safe Harbor shelter later in the day. More than 35 new backpacks donated by students were to be filled with school supplies and given to La Communidad Hispana in Kennett Square. The pencils, markers, crayons, glue sticks, folders, spiral notebooks and books will help the agency support immigrants and low-income residents of Southern Chester County. During the morning, Hillendale volunteers made lunches, soup and cookies, filled the backpacks and decorated placemats, cards and bags to be given to needy families.

“We'll give La Communidad the excess school supplies so they can use them throughout the year,” said parent Mary Liz Cawley, who volunteered on Monday morning with her oldest daughter, Liza Jane.

At Chadds Ford Elementary School, the cafeteria was bustling with volunteers who were sorting children's clothes, toys and books as part of the “Cradles to Crayons” drive. With more donations being carried in as the sorting was going on, the collection was a huge success. Rhea Thomas, who has children at Chadds Ford Elementary, said more than 25 large bags of donations had come in. “Cradles to Crayons is based in Conshohocken,” she said. “This is our first year working with them. It's been great. They estimate that we've collected enough to help 150 kids.”

At Pocopson Elementary School, the theme was “Let's play it forward.” Families were asked to donate new or gently used sports equipment to be given to Philadelphia area organizations which support youth sports programs. On the morning of Jan. 19, families sorted the donated items, bought treats at a fundraiser bake sale, and played games in the gymnasium.

At Unionville High School, the cafeteria was packed with volunteers who sorted food that had been donated from throughout the community for the Kennett Food Cupboard. The school was also a destination for food collections from around the county, so volunteers were dealing with waves of arriving cartons throughout the morning. After the food was checked and sorted into categories, it was to be boxed and loaded on a tractor trailer. At 6 p.m., it was scheduled to be dropped off at the Kennett Food Cupboard, where it will help families who need food assistance throughout the year.

Unionville principal Paula Massanari said that members of the Unionville and Kennett High School football teams had volunteered to do the heavy lifting and load the boxes from the trailer into the food cupboard on Monday evening.

“Sometimes you might think that kids are doing this because we're expecting them to do it, or they just want service hours, but this year we're so impressed that everybody's doing it because it's just a good thing to do,” Massanari said.

Jackie Maas, a UHS parent, was in charge of finding agencies and organizations in the county who needed help, and matching them with volunteers. This year, there were 26 sites and 35 jobs that needed doing, and they were all filled, Maas said with a smile. Due to the large turnout, there are tentative plans to add a second work day in the spring, she said, so that outdoor tasks can be completed.

Clee Brun, the ninth-grade advisor at Unionville High School, said the freshmen had stepped up in a big way this year, organizing a “Change for Change” community-wide donation program that raised well over $2,400 as of Saturday morning, with more money coming in. “The ninth grade officers wanted to sponsor something as a class this year,” Brun said. “They picked the MLK food drive. They ran a big initiative during school hours with the change collection. They really took it and ran with it, putting collection boxes around the community. The teachers got on board, dropping change off every day. It's been great. There are students and donations from Avon Grove and Kennett, too. It's neat that the freshmen really jumped in and took the initiative.”

Students from Patton Middle School and Kennett Middle School also bundled up and joined district superintendent John Sanville and others at Anson B. Nixon Park to do some cleanup on the frosty morning, clearing brush and picking up litter to make the park more enjoyable for the community.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail [email protected].

Slug: MLK Day in schools

Photos by John Chambless

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Volunteers made 300 lunches at Hillendale Elementary School.

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Backpacks were filled with new school supplies at Hillendale Elementary and given to La Communidad Hispana.

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Families at Pocopson Elementary School donated sports equipment.

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There was a big turnout at Chadds Ford Elementary, where donated clothing, toys and books were collected for Cradles to Crayons.

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Toys are sorted at Chadds Ford Elementary.

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Student volunteers sorted donated food at Unionville High School.

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A tractor trailer was loaded with food donated from throughout the community at Unionville High School.

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Middle school students cleaned up Anson B. Nixon Park on Monday morning.

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Unionville-Chadds Ford School District superintendent John Sanville pitched in with the park cleanup.