ANDOVER – This small community has raised more than $8,000 to provide free breakfasts, lunches and snack-time drinks to Andover Elementary School pupils who do not get free or reduced-price meals.

Sharon Hutchins of Andover, a bus driver and custodian for SAD 44, led the effort that started with the First Congregational Church, where she is an active member. Working with them was Calvary Bible Church, also in Andover.

“There’s been such an outpouring of love, and the money is all from individuals, not grants or corporations,” Hutchins said from the school kitchen Friday afternoon.

Hutchins said members of the Congregational church got together last spring to decide on four projects to help townspeople. They first thought about raising money to buy heating oil for those who need it, but the conversation soon switched to the community’s future: the children. The money families save not having to pay for breakfast and lunch, can be used for something else, such as fuel, she said.

Not having to pay for meals and drinks can save a family $14.25 a week for each child.

Hutchins sent out notices of a food sale to kick off the fundraising. About $900 was raised, as were pledges by some people to sponsor a school-year’s worth of meals for one child at $180.

And money started pouring in to go toward the meals.

“One summer family sponsored five kids,” she said.

Hutchins was still receiving some Friday morning. She found a note and check tucked in the screen door of her home.

The $8,000-plus was raised in about three months and will cover the entire school year, Hutchins said.

Andover Elementary School has an enrollment of 42 kindergartners through eighth-graders. It is not known yet how many of them are benefiting from the meals money, Hutchins said, because a bill for the meals will not be received from the district until October.

School lunch worker Diana Nadeau said she believes the fund drive was an indication of how the community can work together.

“We all pull together when there’s a need,” she said. “These are our kids. We can see the result.”

Nadeau attended the Andover school, as did her son, and her mother and grandmother attended when it was a high school.

On Friday, fifth-graders Sara Anderson and Dharma Damon were volunteering in the kitchen. “It’s really awesome about the free meals,” Damon said. “It’s really nice.”

Hutchins said the church group will try to raise money again next year.

“You can’t teach a hungry child,” Hutchins said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.