Students in kindergarten through second grade at Morley School made the 22nd annual ‘Red Wagon Food Drive’ delivery of non-perishables to Town Hall to restock the West Hartford Food Pantry.
By Ronni Newton
The rain began just as the parade of wagons was set to depart from Morley School for the 1.22 mile trek to Town Hall, but nothing could stop the smiling students who already know how important it is to give and how valuable their contribution is to the community.
Every year since 1995, Morley’s kindergartners, first-graders, and second-graders – accompanied by their teachers, administrators, and many parents, and escorted by the West Hartford Police and Fire Departments – make the 1.22-mile trek from the school to Town Hall pulling red wagons full of non-perishables.
“We have 53 wagons with lots and lots of food,” said Dawn O’Connor, a second grade teacher at Morley who has been organizing the food drive ever since it started, and also coordinates Morley’s “Backpack Brigade” donation of school supplies in the spring.
“Less wagons, more food,” said O’Connor, explaining that the number of wagons was down from the 66 that made the trek last year. She credited the increase in donated food in part to a decision to send recycled grocery bags home to Morley families with a note about donating.
“More people donated early. It put it in the forefront,” she said.
Even though it unexpectedly started to rain in the morning, O’Connor said that organizers covered the food with plastic so it wouldn’t get wet and the kids were unfazed. “They’re very happy to do this, and the second-graders are particularly excited because this is their third year.”
Principal Ryan Cleary said he’s prouder than ever to be principal of Morley during events like the Red Wagon Food Drive. “You showed what a closely-knit school could accomplish,” he told the students and others gathered at Town Hall. Town leaders and administrators from the town and West Hartford Public Schools were on hand to help unload the wagons and quickly bring the food inside and out of the rain.
Mayor Shari Cantor, whose four sons are all alumni of Morley, also spoke to the students, reminding them of what a special place Morley is and how important their contribution is to the community.
“I wish more people would give and show respect for people, all kinds of people. Remember how this makes you feel,” she said, thanking the students for the gift of their generosity.
“I’m so proud of our community,” Cleary said. “This is a great lesson for the kids about giving, and about the many different types of giving. Today it’s about the giving of effort – to do something kind and make the community a better place.”
Cleary said Morley’s teachers instill that understanding in the students every day. “This lesson of kindness and giving didn’t start today,” he said.
Community Partnerships Manager Suzanne Oslander said that she is very grateful for the Morley donation, as well as the other donations that have poured in since a story on We-Ha.com informed the community of the Food Pantry’s serious shortages. “Solomon Schechter immediately did a food drive. It’s really raised awareness,” she said.
After the wagons were unloaded, Volunteer Coordinator Barbara Roberts worked to sort all of the food with a team of volunteers from YHB Investment Advisors.
“We’ve partnered with the Town That Cares Fund [which oversees the Food Pantry] to be community volunteers, to donate backpacks, and distribute and collect gift cards and gloves during the holidays, and to volunteer for the wagon drive,” YHB Senior Portfolio Manager Jessica Kott said. “It’s really a nice way to give back to the community.”
The West Hartford Food Pantry can also be supported through donations to the Town That Cares Fund. Donations can be mailed to the Town That Cares Fund, West Hartford Town Hall, 50 South Main St., Room 306, West Hartford, CT 06107. Donations can also be made online by clicking here.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!