GREENCASTLE, Pa. — While the rest of the schools in Franklin County closed on Monday to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Greencastle-Antrim High School students put King’s legacy into action.
G-AHS civics teacher Ellen Kirkner spearheaded a schoolwide service project to collect canned and nonperishable food for several local food pantries.
“We’re honoring Dr. King by contributing to a project that helps others, and that was really part of his emphasis in his life,” Kirkner said.
Senior Nathan Hykes said King stood for racial equality, as well as economic equality.
“By donating food, we are trying to help people who are suffering from poverty, and we are doing that in a local way to help kids feel more involved,” Hykes said.
Fellow senior Zaira Gomez didn’t mind being in class on Monday.
“I think if we were off of school a lot of us would forget and wouldn’t really understand the true meaning of the day. But I think a lot of teachers go out of their way to show us what Martin Luther King Jr. (stood for),” Gomez said. “I think the service project (food collection) is great because we did something to honor him and what he stood for.”
To collect as much food as possible, the school is offering $1 off the admission price to the basketball game between the Greencastle-Antrim Blue Devils and the James Buchanan Rockets to everyone who brings a canned or nonperishable food item.
Senior Jenna Callis, 17, is hoping for a landslide of food on Friday.
Greencastle and James Buchanan are arch rivals, so the game should be packed, she said.
“I think it’s very important to not only realize how important it is to give back, but I think it’s fun for the student body ... to be able to see how we all are working together to give back and carry on Martin Luther King’s legacy,” Callis said.
Greencastle’s food drive couldn’t have come at a better time for Peggy DeWire, the volunteer coordinator for the Greencastle Food Pantry in the Presbyterian Church on West Baltimore Street.
“It’s gotten worse since I started,” DeWire said, standing in front of nearly empty shelves in the pantry.
She’s been volunteering for six years and has seen a surge in the number of families she helps every month since the economy tanked.
“I think it’s because people are still laid off, some have just been laid off, some have lost their unemployment and haven’t gotten a job yet, some are on disability and some are working, but they are making a very low income and have large families,” she said.
In December, she provided food to 88 families or 400 individuals in Greencastle. The Greencastle facility is one of six South Central Community Action Program food pantries in Franklin County.
The number of families has doubled in the past three years, she said.
Eligibility for the food pantry is based on income. DeWire said a family of one’s annual income can not exceed $16,335, and a family of four’s annual income can not exceed $33,500.
All types of food are needed and welcome, but DeWire said condiments such as mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, salad dressing and items such as peanut butter, jelly, canned fruit, Jell-O and pudding mixes, cake mixes and brownie mixes, sugar, flour, pancake mix, and syrup always are in short supply.
“I think it (food drive) teaches them about giving back, because we all live in our own little world. We might be going along in our family and think everything is perfect, and the child that sits beside them in school is coming to school in the morning hungry. So, it makes them aware of what goes on in the community and with their neighbors,” DeWire said.
The Greencastle Food Pantry is open Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon, and is open on the second and third Wednesdays of the month.
South Central Community Action Program Food Pantries include:
• Fayetteville, Pa.: St. Paul Lutheran Church, 44 E. Main St., Fayetteville, 717-319-9017
• Orrstown, Pa.,: St. Paul Lutheran Church, 3442 Orrstown Road, 717-532-8668
• Waynesboro, Pa.: Church of the Brethren, 117 South Church St., 717-762-7509
• St. Thomas, Pa.: St. Thomas United Methodist Church, 360 St. Thomas- Edenville Road, St. Thomas, 717-658-3906
• Chambersburg, Pa.: South Central Community Action Program, 533 S. Main St., Chambersburg, 717-263-5060
• Greencastle, Pa.: Greencastle Presbyterian Church, 57 W. Baltimore St., Greencastle, 717-597-4629