The Morley Red Wagon Food Drive was modified for the second year in a row, but that didn’t stop the Morley community from donating 190 bags of non-perishables to the West Hartford Food Pantry.
By Ronni Newton
While the delivery vehicles were different, the generosity of the Morley Elementary School community was as great if not greater than ever as a caravan of K-2 teachers and Principal Ryan Cleary dropped off a staggering 190 bags of non-perishable items for the West Hartford Food Pantry on Wednesday afternoon.
Now in its 27th year, the Morley Red Wagon Food Drive is a signature event of the school, which has a strong focus on community service.
“It was a big year,” Cleary said. Depending on their contents, each of the 190 bags contained five to six – or as many as 10-12 items donated by the Morley community to needy West Hartford families.
In deference to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, a fleet of SUVs replaced the red wagon brigade for the second year in a row.
“It was easily a couple of thousand food items,” Cleary said, noting that the overall donation seemed to be greater than in the past. It’s hard to compare because they used to measure the donation by the number of wagon loads, but last year, when the pandemic also forced the modification of the event, 130 bags of food were delivered.
Cleary said many families pulled their donations to the school in their wagons this year, keeping the spirit alive. While many things about this school year are back to normal, he said they decided not to have all of the K-2 students make the 1.22-mile trek together to Town Hall with the wagons, “out of an abundance of caution.”
Staff loaded up the SUVs that delivered the food to Town Hall, and Cleary said it was really a whole-school effort.
“Even though we’ve got limitations, these are hallmark events,” Cleary said. “We still learn lessons about community,” he said, and people really came out in force with their generosity.
In addition to the modified Red Wagon Food Drive, Morley’s Backpack Brigade was canceled last spring and the school instead raised money and made a donation to help West Hartford Social Services supply backpacks and school supplies to children in need. Next year they are hopeful the events can return to the regular format.
“It went smoothly,” said Mari Beth Hixson, a Morley kindergarten teacher who is one of the event coordinators. “The kids were happy to carry the bags in.”
Jennifer La Forte, a Morley second grade teacher and also an event coordinator, said her students were very involved, and making announcements about the progress of the collection, which took place over two weeks.
She said the kids couldn’t believe how much food had been collected.
“They were really proud, felt really accomplished,” Morley first grade teacher Heather Alerte said.
“We’re so happy that Morley found a way to keep this going for the 27th year,” said Food Pantry Coordinator Nancy Stockman.
She was thrilled to see the bags contain many of the staple items that are in short supply and are needed to go into bags distributed weekly. The Food Pantry remains in need of peanut butter, jelly, pasta, pasta sauce, cold cereal, baked beans, and canned corn.
“We are still seeing a strong need, an incredible need, and we are here for families who need us,” Stockman said.
Anyone who would like to donate to the Food Pantry can drop off items at the same time as the pantry is open for distribution: Tuesdays from 3:30-5:30 p.m.; Wednesdays from 9-11 a.m.; and Fridays from 10 a.m.-noon. Both West Hartford Stop & Shop stores and Whole Foods on Raymond Road also have collection bins.
For an up-to-date list of what is needed, visit the Food Pantry webpage.
Financial contributions are also very much appreciated and may be sent to: Town That Cares Food Pantry, 50 South Main St., Room 306, West Hartford, CT 06107. Donations can also be made online by clicking here.
For more information on donating food or how you can help, contact Nancy Stockman at [email protected] or 860-561-7569.
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