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Penndale community helps local families in need

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As 2018 wrapped up in the last school days of the year, Penndale Middle School was hard at work to make the holiday season special for many North Penn families in need.

Starting in early December, each grade level was assigned a certain theme (7th grade – Breakfast, 8th grade – Italian, and 9th grade – Mexican). They were then challenged to bring in as many non-perishable food items as they could.

This challenge was presented to the whole school, but one teacher took it even further and gave her students an additional incentive to contribute to the food drive. Penndale history teacher Deanna Bratina offered to let whichever of her classes brought the most food items be exempt from her next test.

“I think you always have to create a good competition. This year it was insanely fierce! Especially on the last day; kids were running in with more food literally all day long. They kept calling parents, asking them to bring more. All day the secretaries were calling me and saying things like ‘2nd period mom just brought another 200 items!’ Every time a class would change, I would have kids running in to see how much the last class had collected,” remarked Bratina.

One of Bratina’s students went above and beyond, ordering over $100 worth of granola bars!

“If there is one thing that my dad has taught me, it is the importance of giving to charity and helping people who aren’t as fortunate as you. He does things all the time to help people around him and show to not just care about yourself. He really motivates me to do things like that. That is for sure why I decided to make such a big contribution,” reflected 9th grader Atharv Awasthi.

Connor Niszczak
Some of the hundreds of items the Leo Club sorted into boxes.

All in all, Bratina’s classes alone collected over 13,000 items, and that’s not even counting the contributions from the rest of the school! (To be clear, a box of 24 granola bars would count as 24 items, so it was not necessarily 13,000 individual items.)

To organize all of that food, Penndale’s Leo Club – with advisors Mrs. Poley, Mrs. Fleetwood, and Mrs. Shaughnessy, and roughly 40 student members – stayed after school and filled 50 boxes and bags to the brim with all sorts of foods, such as granola bars, cereals, canned goods, and pasta. These were then delivered to 25 Penndale families whose holiday season would have been much less enjoyable without the donations and effort of Penndale’s finest.

“This is my second year being involved in Leo Club. I have learned and grown as an individual from my experiences while giving back to others. It is enlightening to learn that life isn’t just about you, your family or friends. I also find great pleasure in seeing my peers and friend[s] value others before themselves. Helping others has shown me how much we should value everything in life,” remarked Leo Club member Sophia Lynn.

Penndale seventh grader Michael Jeffris voiced that joining the Leo Club has been one of the best things he has done in his time at Penndale so far.

The Leo Club is great, you help people who need it, and you have a lot of fun. It is always important to help people because you will never know when those people may help you, and it is just a great thing to do,” he said.

Connor Niszczak
Leo Club members hard at work organizing food for families.

The club advisors – Mrs. Poley, Fleetwood, and Shaughnessy – all love being involved with events like this and say it is one of the best parts of their jobs.

“The Leo Club is an amazing group of students who give up their time to provide for both our school and our community,” they said.

The food drive becomes more and more important every year, as the demographics at Penndale and throughout the district have been changing in recent years.

“I’ve been here at Penndale for 22 years. I have personally seen the demographics of our population change over those 22 years. We are now at 60% free and reduced lunch here. So there is a great need in this building, a lot of people who can use our support. When I saw the turnout at the first Care and Share clothing drive last year, it dawned on me that we need to keep this going. It dawned on me that there is a bigger need than just clothes, not just here at Penndale, but in all of our communities,” concluded Bratina.

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Penndale community helps local families in need