FARMINGTON — Students and teachers at W.G. Mallett School teamed up with students from the University of Maine at Farmington to collect 1,473 pounds of nonperishable food for the 29th annual Helping Hands Food Pass.

Classes from Mallett walked the donations from the school to the Community Center on Middle Street Thursday morning, with each student carrying a plastic grocery bag with an item or two.

W.G. Mallett School kindergarten students Braedyn Swett, at left, and Jalil Mustafa, and their teacher Hannah Goodenow take part in the Helping Hands food pass Thursday morning in Farmington. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal

“Every student gets to help carry stuff over,” kindergarten teacher Hannah Goodenow said. “Even those that were unable to donate get to take part in the giving.”

Retired teacher Wanda Fortin helped coordinate the sorting efforts, as she has every year since the event’s inception.

“My son’s school in Skowhegan did this and I thought it was a great idea,” Fortin said. “When my daughter started kindergarten at Mallett, we started it here. It used to be students would line up from the school to the center and pass items. Now they loop to the school and back until everything is brought here.”

As students placed goods on a table, retired teachers, their friends and community members sorted and boxed the items for distribution.

Helping Hands volunteers Robin Bragg, left, Julia Hennessey and Sue Foss collect food donations from Farmington’s W.G. Mallett School students Thursday. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal

“For a lot of us this is like old home days,” Fortin said. “We only really see each other once a year.”

Once boxes were filled, Regional School Unit 9 bus drivers Bruce Boyker and Bruce Rollins loaded them onto a truck for distribution.

While the majority of the food collected will go to Care and Share Food Closet, some of it will support the Thrifty Beaver Co-op at UMF and Mallett students, Mallett Principal Tracy Williams said.

“It takes about an hour from start to finish,” Fortin said. “We are a very efficient and well-oiled machine.”

This is the first year UMF has been involved with the collection.

“The Helping Hands tradition is a wonderful example of how students from Kindergarten to college can make a difference in their community,” said Edward Serna, UMF president. “It’s heartwarming to know this simple act of gathering to collect food items for local pantries will not only help feed area families but also teach the next generation how important it is to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

W.G. Mallett School students and staff carry food donations from the school to the Farmington Community Center on Thursday morning under the watchful eye of crossing guard Bob Hallman, at left, and Deputy Police Chief Shane Cote. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal


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