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Caring and Kindness at Memorial School

United Parish Food Pantry head Amy Griswald and Nipmuc High School Life Skills teacher David Antonelli speak to Memorial Elementary School students at the kick-off of Memorial's "Caring and Kindness in the Community" Service Project. Students collected over $2,000 in spare change from November 7-9 to purchase much needed items for the United Parish Food Pantry.

Kindness, caring, and compassion are just a few of the attributes that the Memorial Elementary School administrators and teachers endeavor to foster in their students on a daily basis. So when members of the PTO presented the school with an idea to give back to the community, they jumped right on it.

At a full school assembly on November 5, Memorial Principal Debra Swain announced a new school service project "Caring and Kindness in our Community," telling the students that she knew they would easily rise to the occasion. "The acts of kindness that I see in their school blow me away!" said Swain.

Swain said that the goal of the project, which would be headed up by the 4th grade class with the help of Memorial's PTO, would be to raise money to purchase food and supply items for the United Parish Food Pantry. "There are people in our community who are having a hard time, wouldn't it be great if we could help them?" Swain asked the students, who answered with loud cheering. Swain went on to explain that for three days, from November 7 through 9, they are asking staff, students and their families to bring in spare change to be collected and counted at the school. During the assembly, Swain introduced David Antonelli, Life Skills teacher and head of the special education Vista Program at Nipmuc High School who attended the assembly with twelve of his students ranging in ages from 14-22. Also introduced by Swain was Amy Griswald, head of the United Parish Food Pantry. Swain informed the students that after the money is collected, the staff at the Food Pantry will work with the Life Skills Program at Nipmuc High School to shop for and purchase needed items that will be distributed to local individuals and families in need.

As a "celebration" for their accomplishments, Swain told the students that they would be able to have a "read-out" on that Friday afternoon, where they would be able to pick a favorite book and pick a place in the building where they would like to have quiet reading time while waiting for the announcement on the loudspeaker of the total amount of money collected.

When that Friday announcement came, Swain was "extremely proud" to announce that the amount raised by the school was just shy of $2,100.

"We were elated, overwhelmed, and in awe of everyone's generosity," said PTO co-President Michelle Arthur when the final numbers were counted. She added, "We wanted to find a way to give back to the community who has been so generous in helping us," to the community-wide effort last year to collect Box Tops for Education to be used to purchase technology for the school. "The totals went way beyond our expectations," she said.

Antonelli said that with a donation this size, they would not only be able to put together about 36 Thanksgiving baskets for families in need, but would also be able to stock the pantry with about four months' worth of groceries. "It is amazing," said Antonelli of the amount of money the students raised for the food pantry.

"I think this project and its great success speaks volumes about the kindness and caring of our students and their parents; it was an opportunity for us as a school community to come together to give back to the greater community of Upton," said Swain. "We have seen that when we work together great things can be accomplished.


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