LEWISTON — Sixth-grader David Williams, 11, has been in the principal’s office in a way that has Montello Elementary School Principal Jim Cliffe beaming.

To help the school’s new food pantry that feeds needy children on weekends, Williams organized and rallied a bottle drive. He hung up posters and asked friends, family, his karate teachers and school community members to donate. The collection went on for two weeks.

By the time the 7,000-plus bottles were collected, the drive produced $357.05, enough to help the school food pantry feed 20 families for a month.

Because Montello’s food pantry is partnered with the Good Shepherd Food-Bank, “the money will go a long way,” Williams said.

Principal Cliffe said he’s “blown away” by how much money Williams raised. “He’s a top-notch kid. He cares about people. He’s tuned into the needs of his classmates in this school.”

Partnering with Good Shepherd Food-Bank, Montello started a school food pantry last year after teachers noticed some students weren’t getting enough food on weekends.

Kaitlynn Brown, who oversees Montello’s extended school day program, said the food bank started after a gift from the Maine Credit Union League.

Every Friday, food from Good Shepherd is bagged and sent home on the bus with students. Recipients told teachers they had little to eat during weekends, or there wasn’t much food at home. Other times, teachers have noticed hungry students taking extra snacks home.

One parent who receives food through the program is a single, working mother of three, Brown said. She’s told Brown the weekend food “makes a big difference, it allows her to pay her rent on time.”

Last winter, the program helped a couple of families. “This year, we doubled the kids we service,” Brown said.

Williams said he decided to organize a bottle drive after he was assigned to do community service as part of his karate class. He’s working on his junior black belt.

“At the beginning my goal was the more bottles, the better.” He thought maybe he’d raise $50. “I’m really surprised at all the bottles,” he said. “I’m thankful for all the people who donated bottles.”

Williams is the son of Jennifer and Peter Williams.

“I’m amazed by this, but not surprised,” his mother said. “He’s been focused, working hard and was anxious to turn the money in.”

Montello’s food pantry could use some more help, Cliffe said.

Teachers and school staff have volunteered Fridays to pack the food for students.

“I’m really proud of them, but on the other side we’ve got other focuses,” like curriculum and improving learning, Cliffe said.

He is asking for two or three parents or community members to volunteer two hours on Fridays to get the food packed. He may be contacted at the school at 795-4150 or by email at [email protected]

AUBURN — Through its relationships with Maine’s food industry, Auburn’s Good Shepherd Food-Bank obtains millions of pounds of food each year.

Good Shepherd acts as a clearing house, providing food to more than 600 pantries, soup kitchens and community programs in all 16 counties in Maine.

For more information, visit http://www.gsfb.org/.

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