SOUTH HADLEY, Massachusetts (WGGB) — Martin Luther King Day is not just a day off in the town of South Hadley any more, it’s a day of service. That’s what Martin Luther King Day has become in the Hampshire County town.
A year ago, Neighbors Helping Neighbors joined forces with Count Me In and South Hadley High School to collect groceries for the town’s food pantry, all to counter the school’s image in the wake of the Phoebe Prince incident. Ted McCarthy, the high school’s vice principal says, “It speaks to what they’re really invested in, when on their day off, they come in, they spend hours picking up bags, going out into the community and meeting people and collecting food and sorting food. For most kids, MLK day is a day to like, take it easy, but these guys really respond to the challenge of just helping out in the community.”
Last Saturday, 120 student volunteers, along with school administrators, teachers and townspeople, delivered more than 3 thousand empty grocery bags to homes. It’s a community wide effort.
On Monday, they went back to those homes and collected the bags, now filled with food. Food drive coordinator Sue Brouiuette says 35 hundred bags came back, “Some people actually fill the bag with food and will staple a check to the bag. I mean the generosity inside South Hadley is just stunning to me, just stunning.”
And stunning to freshman Deanna Conti, who says, “I’m really proud, like I can’t believe all my friends are doing this with me and I’m going to keep on coming back and do this to help out everyone.”
The food collected Monday will last about two months. Last year, the first year of the food drive, over 2000 bags of groceries were collected. This year, they collected 15 hundred more. And next year, Deanna Conti says it will be even bigger, “I think everyone wants to help put and wants to show them that we can actually make a difference.”