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Mooers Elementary students trade gifts for food

SPIRIT OF GIVING - Students in grades 3, 4, and 5 at Mooers Elementary School opted to donate money to the local food shelf instead of exchanging gifts this year.

SPIRIT OF GIVING - Students in grades 3, 4, and 5 at Mooers Elementary School opted to donate money to the local food shelf instead of exchanging gifts this year. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

— Nolan Gonyo doesn’t want people to go without food.

That’s why the fourth grader was grinning ear to ear when he and his classmates donated to the local food shelf instead of exchanging gifts in class.

“I want to help poor people,” said Gonyo, a fourth grader at Mooers Elementary School.

Instead of a yearly gift exchange, students in grades 3, 4, and 5 brought in food items that were donated to the Mooers Wesleyan Food Pantry.

Not too long ago, a group of Mooers teachers discussed ways to give back to the community while instilling students with the true meaning of Christmas.

“Several years ago we collected items for soldiers,” said Dan Dumas, a fourth-grade teacher at Mooers Elementary School. “This year we decided to focus our efforts locally.”

Dumas said they decided to donate to the food shelf.

“The students really like helping out.”

Plus, Dumas said, each month educators teach students character words, and the month of December is compassion.

“This shows them how to be compassionate,” he said.

So the school sent a letter to parents explaining that students were being asked to bring in food items instead of a gift exchange. Right away, Dumas said, parents approached him to express their gratitude for involving their children in such a project and keeping Christmas a little less commercialized.

In all, about 175 students participated in the project, covering the school’s stage with boxes of food items.

“They were so excited about it,” Dumas said. “They really felt like they were helping.”

The students laughed, many skipping as they stacked their food items on the school’s stage.

“I liked seeing all the people bring in food,” Gonyo smiled.

Representatives for the Mooers Wesleyan Food Pantry were smiling too.

“They did a good job,” said co-director Luanne Willette.

Roughly 500 families are registered with the food shelf, with about 150 to 160 coming in monthly. There is a big need in the Northern Tier, Willette said, and the food shelf wouldn’t be able to fill that void without donations.

“When we get a big one like this, it is wonderful,” Willette said. “We are grateful to these students.”

Fifth grader Sonja Walker said she was like, “wow,” when she saw all the boxes of food at her school.

“I thought it was good because we are helping people that don’t have a lot of food.”

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