PANAMA - In the spirit of Christmas, second-grade students at Panama Central School had an opportunity to experience the gift of giving.
On Thursday, a two-week food drive campaign in which the students collected food items and other amenities culminated in a visit to the Panama United Methodist Church; where the items were donated to the church's food pantry.
As the students filed into the church with their teachers, Amy Andrews and Jen O'Dell, it quickly became apparent that the number of donations would far exceed the expectations of Tabetha Butler, coordinator of the UMC food pantry. According to Butler, the abundance of donations, and the students' willingness to participate in the food drive itself, is a testimony to the Panama community.
Students and teachers of Panama Central School’s second-grade class pose with the items they have gathered for donation to the Panama United Methodist Church food pantry.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
"I had no clue that the things they were bringing in would fill an entire table," Butler said. "I was thinking every little kid would come in with a tube of toothpaste or a bottle of shampoo, but Panama is a generous community. Even if they don't have a lot, they tend to give because they know there's always somebody that doesn't even have as much as they do. So, we're very pleased."
In addition to the volume of donated items, Butler said the items are also beneficial in that they constitute many of the supplies that will no longer be available through the church's main food pantry donor - the Food Bank of Western New York - as of Jan. 1. According to Andrews, who reached out to Butler to initiate a collaborative food drive effort between the church and the school district, the students were urged to gather the specific items that Butler informed her would no longer be available through the food bank as of next year, such as paper products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper and shampoo.
Andrews said she initially contacted Butler about the food drive as a means of teaching the importance of community service to her students.
"In the beginning of December, I spoke with Mrs. O'Dell about doing something to show the community that second-graders care," Andrews said. "So, I contacted Mrs. Butler because I knew she was in charge of the food pantry, and she told us what they would really like to add to it."
The donations will supplement the offerings of the UMC food pantry, which is set up in a style similar to a grocery store. The UMC food pantry strives to supply each of its clients with basic food and hygiene provisions through the donations of outside groups and organizations.