JACKSON TWP — This year has brought forth a number of unexpected heroes, many of whom inspire others to do charitable work themselves.
Mike Manipole, a health and physical education teacher at Ryan Gloyer Middle School, was inspired by one of his students to help organize a weeklong, contactless food drive for local families.
“A student of mine, Ayla Alexander, brought in food to be donated,” Manipole said. “Her idea just stuck with me.”
Like others in the Seneca Valley School District, the middle school students are learning remotely until the middle of January.
Manipole said working with students online has given district teachers a different perspective on what families are facing during the pandemic.
“Some of the kids have been mentioning that their parents have been laid off or have had other problems,” Manipole said. “Everyone at some point in their life will have struggles, and we want to support each other.”
With Ayla's example in mind, Manipole said the middle school physical education department discussed ways teachers could offer assistance to local families.
Hosting a food drive that involved all levels of the school — from teachers to students — presented itself as a good way to collaborate. The RGMS Cares Food Drive was born.
Next week, the public is invited to drop off nonperishable food at a trailer parked under the middle school flagpole from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Friday; 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday; and 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 19.
The food drive is contact-free.
In the meantime, Manipole said people are spreading the word.
“Many people have so far inquired about receiving food,” Manipole said. “(We want) to share the view that everyone is important and we care.”
Several volunteers from the physical education staff are coordinating with others to notify parents about the drive, ask for donations and organize additional helping hands.
Special education students, who are allowed to attend classes in person at this time, are designing cards to distribute with donations.
Drive organizers are also specifically asking for donations of boxes of small candy canes to hand out as an extra holiday treat.
Seneca Valley joined other districts this year in participating in free meal programs for district children, coordinated through the Pennsylvania Department of Education via waivers issued through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many of those waivers are expected to expire Dec. 31, although many districts are still hoping to provide students with meals while they're learning at home.
“Our district has always tried to continue the services as much as possible,” Manipole said. “They recognize that meeting the needs of our students and families are our top priority.”
Manipole said he and other middle school teachers hope the food drive not only helps families, but also teaches students how to work together as a community.
Those who need food assistance are asked to submit their information confidentially to one of the following contacts:
- Mike Manipole, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Vic Giannotta, email@example.com
- Maryann Graziano, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dave Wilson, email@example.com.
Families can pick up food Dec. 21 and 22 at the middle school. Delivery arrangements can be made as needed. A list of nonperishable items that can be donated is posted on the middle school website.