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Parker ohana donates nearly 5 tons of food to Food Basket

Parker School celebrated its traditional ‘Ohana Day on Wednesday. This day marked not only the start of Thanksgiving break and a morning gathering of the school community, but also the culmination of a two-month long schoolwide canned food drive launched by the student council to benefit The Food Basket.

The Food Basket is “an islandwide, supplemental food network that collects and distributes nutritious, high-quality food to low-income households, the working poor, the disabled, the ill, senior citizens and children.”

At 10:45 a.m., all kindergarten through 12th-grade students, faculty, staff and several Parker families gathered on the lawn in front of the school’s theater where six pick-up trucks and an SUV, fully loaded with heaps of cans and bags of rice, were parked for all to see.

Headmaster Carl Sturges addressed the crowd, announcing that the food drive ended up gaining so much momentum, student participation and enthusiasm that the original 20,000-ounce goal was quickly surpassed.

The final tally of donated food was 153,541 ounces, which equals 9,586 pounds, or almost 5 tons.

The grade levels competed against each other for prizes to collect the most amount of food, and prizes were also given to individuals who brought in the most food, although going for prizes wasn’t the underlying message.

Olivia Armandroff, student council senior class officer and coordinator of the food drive, said, “… we wanted the focus to be on raising the food for a good cause rather than working to win a prize. We feel as though these two prizes (the highest individual prizes) will be rewards, or pats on the back, rather than incentives.”

Big Island Eco Adventures donated a zip-lining trip for the highest performing high school class, and this prize went to the ninth-graders, who raised 1,778 pounds.

KBXtreme, the bowling alley in Kona, donated shoes, two rounds of bowling and 10 tokens — aka, a party package — for each of the students in the highest-performing middle-school class. This prize went to the sixth grade, who collected 2,863 pounds.

The individual prizes included a ride for two with Kohala Ditch Adventures, run by ATV Outfitters, snorkel and whale-watch cruises from Ocean Sports, Starbucks gift certificates and merchandise, and Visa gift cards purchased from the student council’s funds.­

“Parker School wishes to thank these organizations for generously donating the student prizes,” said spokeswoman Katie Callender.

Assistant Head Shellie Gressard said the sixth-graders were so motivated that they even manned collection carts outside Foodland up until a half hour before the event. They also all dipped into their own piggy banks, coming up with a total of $1,000 to purchase rice for the drive.

Recapping his ceremony speech, Sturges said, “What I told the kids was that they have great ability — that’s academic ability, the ability to give to others, all of that — but they also, more importantly, recognize that with great ability comes great responsibility.

“We really came through as a school today to create something for other people. They (the students) showed the responsibility that they feel for their community. How many cans they were able to collect and how many peoples’ lives they were able to touch through this is just awe inspiring. I’m more proud of them today than I’ve ever been at this school. They really were selfless and they worked as a team. And what they did as a group was just astounding. I’m so proud of them.”

After Sturges’ announcement at the ceremony, he welcomed the Rev. Robert Shwarzhaupt of Annunciation Catholic Church in Waimea to bless the food before it was taken to be delivered to the food bank. Annunciation Catholic Church is one of The Food Basket’s food pantry locations.

In addition to all the prize and food donors, Armandroff thanked her fellow food drive committee members, Lorenzo Arnouts and Sean Dunnington, for their hard work.

And after Wednesday’s event, delivering the last load of food to The Food Basket, with the satisfaction of knowing she spearheaded an effort to raise enough food to feed 240 families of four for three to five days, Armandroff said, “I’m so proud of the compassion and generosity of my fellow students. Their enthusiasm became truly contagious. We really hope we have made a difference for families in our community!”

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