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Rachel’s Challenge – Learning To Work Together

Seventh graders from Holman Middle School prepare CSFP boxes / Photo by Bethany Prange

Shouts of pre-teen voices and the squeals of rubber-soled sneakers on concrete blasted through the silence. Empty cardboard boxes and plastic wrap flew around the room like a mini tornado.

Brightly-colored Aeropostle t-shirts and Abercrombie hoodies blur together in a frantic rainbow.

Then, in a flurry of coins and quick fingers, the vending machine was cleaned out of candy and soda.

Gremlins? Nope.

It’s just the raw energy and enthusiasm of more than 200 seventh graders.

Over the course of two weeks in late January, the entire seventh grade class from Holman Middle School in the Pattonville School District converged on the Volunteer Center at St. Louis Area Foodbank.

For three hours straight on several days, the students relied on the full force of their youthful enthusiasm to pack box after box of  pasta, rice, beans and beef stew for families in need. And as they packed, they learned a few lessons about compassion and working together to help others.

“The seventh graders are here today as part of Rachel’s Challenge,” says Rita Rutledge, a social studies teacher and department chairperson at Holman. “Our school has adopted the Rachel’s Challenge philosophy and we chose this week because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

Rachel’s Challenge was started by the family of Rachel Scott, the first person killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Her acts of kindness and compassion coupled with the contents of her six diaries have become the foundation “for one of the most life-changing school programs in America,” according to the Rachel’s Challenge website.

“They had found a bunch of her writings and she had talked about being kind to others and never bullying people,” Rutledge says. “They challenge the students to be nice to others and to never bully others.”

The mission of Rachel’s Challenge is to: “create a permanent positive culture change in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.”

“I think volunteering here gives the kids a sense of doing things for others without monetary reward,” Rutledge says. “I think the kids realize that being kind is something we should do in our daily life. Hopefully we are fostering a lifelong belief of working for your community.”

Holman Middle School is participating in Rachel’s Challenge throughout the year, and volunteering at the Foodbank is just part of their commitment. They chose to do their community service day at the Foodbank because a small group of students had previously volunteered here on the 9/11 day of service.

Rutledge said the students had such a positive experience at the Foodbank, she wanted to bring the entire class back.

    Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at The St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Little Helping Hands

Photo Reenactment / Photo by Bethany Prange

“Knock, knock.”

Trish, the St. Louis Area Foodbank volunteer coordinator, laughed as she tapped her knuckles on the door of my office.

“I have someone here who wants to make a donation,” she said with a smile.

I turned around in my chair and began to get up, but quickly realized I was already eye-to-eye with the donor — a sweet little girl of about 7. We’ll call her Charity.

Charity shyly handed me a heavy white envelope. Inside, nickels and dimes were Scotch-taped to loose-leaf paper.

A few weeks ago, when Charity learned she would be volunteering at the Foodbank, she started saving her hard-earned allowance.

By donating a portion of her allowance, Charity learned that caring and sacrifice go hand in hand — no matter what size the hands are.

All hard-working donors sacrifice a little to help their neighbors a lot, and they also trust in the Foodbank to make their sacrifice count.

Charity’s $1.25 enables the Foodbank to provide 5 meals to people in need. ($1=4 meals)

I didn’t perform cross multiplication for Charity to demonstrate the impact of her donation, but that is certainly something I do weekly to show how $1 can go a long way toward making a substantial difference.

Instead, I told Charity she had done something very nice, and then she gave me a hug.

    Patrick Delhougne is a development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.