Student food drive ends with 45-minute walk

St. Mary's High School students drop off some 3,500 nonperishable food items in St. Vincent de Paul collection bins Nov. 26 outside the Diocesan Pastoral Center. The teenagers walked the food from their campus nearly two miles away. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
St. Mary’s High School students drop off some 3,500 nonperishable food items in St. Vincent de Paul collection bins Nov. 26 outside the Diocesan Pastoral Center. The teenagers walked the food from their campus nearly two miles away. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

St. Mary’s High School students have taken the idea of a canned food drive to the extreme.

Collecting some 3,500 canned goods and other nonperishables at the campus was not enough. Nor was a “cans across campus” effort. The tradition popular at other Catholic schools this time of year has students forming human chains to transport the nonperishables from the school to the nearby St. Vincent de Paul pantry.

Instead, all 523 St. Mary’s students carried several nonperishables from their current campus to the site of the original one nearly two miles away.

“It wasn’t long when you’re doing it for a good cause and when you’re with friends who have the same goal in mind,” Stebalis Horta, a sophomore, said after starting her trek back to campus.

She contributed a case of fruit and green beans to the drive. The latter was among the more commonly donated items alongside ramen noodles, according to Francesca Krestin, St. Mary’s receptionist. She counted and inventoried the items as students brought them to the front office.

Students quickly filled 26 collection bins outside the Diocesan Pastoral Center and easily left another two dozen cases of food for an awaiting St. Vincent de Paul truck. The roughly 45-minute jaunt down Third Street to the DPC — where St. Mary’s once stood — continued a 25-year-old tradition of allowing the students to walk to and from each site.

Until last year, the route served as a walk-a-thon course that raised money for the 97-year-old school. Then it converted to a food drive to benefit the community.

“I hope they get the sense of helping those in need, especially those in our area,” said Sarah Yearden, director of admissions, who coordinated the month-long drive.

Many students had a visual reminder too. A noticeably homeless man stood at a street corner not far from campus watching the procession. At least one St. Mary’s student wanted to offer what he had to the man, but wasn’t permitted to cross the street.

The man pushed what he owned in several bags that hung from some sort of cart or flatbed dolly. He made his way across the street as the last group of students had passed.

The teenagers stopped in the courtyard between the DPC and St. Mary’s Basilica just long enough to drop their items in a bin that had space. They proceeded back to campus for a school-wide Thanksgiving celebration with music, games and lunch.