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Chester County Press

Students spend their summer mornings helping children in Kennett Square

07/06/2015 03:23PM ● By J. Chambless

Marisa Maxwell, Kavya Shetty, Olivia Pagliaro and Ben Skross prepare bags of snacks for students at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

It was hard to tell who was having more fun on Monday morning – the kindergarteners at the Mary D. Lang Center in Kennett Square who were getting a snack, or the teens who were delivering the bags of food.

The four teens – all members of the Humanitarian Club at Kennett High School -- were kicking off a new program this week. From Monday through Thursday, club members will be providing a healthy, balanced snack to students at the school as one of the many ongoing community service projects the club sponsors.

Just before 10 a.m., the students and club adviser Lisa Teixeira talked about how the club's “Books, Bytes and Bites” program came about.

“Almost a year ago, we thought about maybe doing a summer lunch program,” Marisa Maxwell said. “There are a lot of kids in our district who get free or reduced lunch, but during the summer, they don't have the opportunity to get lunch. We went through a couple different routes to find something that worked for us. Now we're providing a little lunch for kids – milk, a fruit cup, fresh fruit, a granola bar and a cheese stick. We worked with the Kennett Food Cupboard, who provided all the food for our program, as well as the Chester County Food Bank.”

 Maxwell, along with Kavya Shetty, actually graduated from Kennett High School last month, but since they were part of starting the summer snack program, they wanted to see it through. “This is so much fun, though,” Maxwell said with a smile. “This is what I want to be doing with my summer.” Accompanying them were younger Kennett High School students Olivia Pagliaro and Ben Skross, who will be learning the ropes and continuing the program next summer.

“It's just nice. They say charity starts at home, so it's nice to give back to a community that's given us so much,” Shetty said. “Over the year, we've been able to help people, but to help students who are coming up and will follow in our footsteps, it's nice.”

“It's great that these young people are willing to fill this need for these kids,” Teixeira said. “I know the Food Cupboard is thrilled because they have such a spike in need during the summer. Some kids at our school get breakfast and lunch at school, so all of a sudden these families have to take the same budget and come up with two extra meals a day. Even though this is just one snack, it's a start.”

The snacks provided to youngsters last summer were minimal – often just a granola bar and drink – and the meals provided by the Humanitarian Club are a big improvement.

At 10 a.m., the four students pulled carts loaded with bags of snacks and apples to the 18 summer classrooms, where they were met with big grins from the students. The high-school students placed the sacks where each teacher told them and quietly left the room, since lessons were in progress. The children often waved or stared in awe as the bags were delivered.

“Oh this is so much fun!” Pagliaro said as she returned to the cart for another bag.

The team had arrived at the school at around 8:15 a.m. and transported the donated food from the Food Cupboard across the street from the school. They sorted, bagged and labeled everything for the distribution. By 10:20, the job was over and the students were free to continue their days.

At the high school, the Humanitarian Club is also overseeing a summer program at the library so that local students can come in and use the computers, work on their summer reading, check out a book and enjoy a snack during the summer. Club members are there every day to supervise.

The Humanitarian Club organizes a wide range of fundraisers and community service projects all year long, and the students listed several: A fall food drive netted eight tons of food for the Kennett Food Cupboard this year, as well as a Night of the Arts to raise money for various foundations, and a money collection to help families displaced by fires in the community. They also collected money for Nepal after the recent earthquakes, collected prom clothes for the Alternative Prom in Philadelphia, and they clean up Anson B. Nixon Park every March.

“It's a nice marriage between the community and our club,” Teixeira said. “Hunger awareness is a big issue in our community.”

“It's cool to be able to start a program like this that will hopefully last,” Maxwell said. “We've actually started a program in our community that will make a lasting impact.”

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