Many families around Niagara Falls, Ont., had a happier Thanksgiving last year, thanks to the work of students at Westlane Secondary School in Niagara Falls, Ont.

Through a “gifts of gratitude” campaign, the school's What About Me group—a collection of students who get together to discuss a variety of topics, including the community and societal issues—held a food drive in support of The Salvation Army's food bank. Students were also encouraged to share what they were grateful for throughout the campaign. The group's staff advisor, Sarah Murdoch, said responses varied from parents and teachers to pizza and music.

“They had fun with it, but there were some thoughtful responses in there as well,” she said.

“Not a Problem”
Students were encouraged to donate food items during their third-period class, and the classroom with the biggest haul won a pizza party.

“We had a great response,” said Sarah.

The bags of donated items back up her claim. Lieutenant Kristen Jackson-Dockeray, then pastor of The Salvation Army's Niagara Orchard Community Church, stopped by the school to pick up the items ahead of Thanksgiving.

“I was happy with the response,” Lieutenant Kristen said, “and it carried the food bank through to the Christmas season when other campaigns geared up to raise money for food items, presents and more.

“Our food bank had bare shelves heading into Thanksgiving,” she said, adding she called Julie Mathewson, a youth counsellor at Westlane, to see if there was anything that could be done to help.

“She said, 'Not a problem,' and now here we are. This was a tremendous amount.”

The Salvation Army food bank in Niagara Falls helps roughly 100 families a month, and they're always looking for donations.

(Reprinted from Niagara This Week, October 8, 2015.)

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