A collaborative effort at Chester High School will provide much-needed food, nutrition and personal hygiene supplies to needy students.
Kristin Wolter, Chester High School counselor, said the idea behind a CHS-based food pantry grew out of a discussion between National Honor Society sponsors and students, the Student Services Office and the School Nurse."
She said many students do not have sufficient food or hygiene supplies on a regular basis. Some students rely on school breakfast and lunch for their main meals of the day.
Teachers Sophia Durbin, NHS sponsor Evelyn Hankins, school nurse Jamie Brockmeyer and counselor Kristin Wolter are spearheading the initiative with the assistance of the members of the Chester High School Summit Chapter of the National Honor Society.
Then, the Randolph County Shriners Club got involved. On March 11, A.G. Bierman gave the food pantry organizers $100 on behalf of the Shriners, to establish a fund from which to help purchase much-needed items to stock the shelves of the pantry.
"The Randolph County Shriners are happy to help the school start their food pantry," Bierman said. "We always like to help out where and when we can. Hopefully others will follow and make donations so that the organizers can stock their shelves with good, healthy food for kids."
Nurse Brockmeyer said she already has a large storage cabinet full of hygiene supplies.
"Kids stop by my office regularly to visit, get a dose of positive support, discuss problems and ask for medical attention or advice," she said. "Sometimes the need for hygiene items comes up."
Brockmeyer said some students do not have money or adequate food at home, especially on weekends when they are not eating meals at school.
"I hope the other large storage cabinet in my office will soon be filled with various food items which I can offer those students who are in need," she added.
Wolter said the pantry will focus on food that is kid-friendly and protein rich.
"Things that are microwaveable, easy to fix and grab-and-go, will be a big focus of our efforts," Wolters said. "Nonperishable items will be high on our list. We are just getting started, but soon we hope to be fully functioning."
In April the NHS will host a food drive, when Chester residents are encouraged to donate. Monetary donations are also welcome, since there are always needs that are not covered by tangible donations from community members.
Sofia Durbin said the pantry will be run on a student referral basis. "All referrals will kept confidential," she added. "Those students that wish to visit Nurse Brockmeyer can also request assistance and her distributions of food or sanitary items will be kept confidential."
Make donations by calling the school at (618) 826-2302 and speak to Kristin Wolter, school counselor. She will be glad to coordinate either tangible food item donations or monetary donations.
Wolter said, "We are very thankful to Mr. A.G. Bierman and the Randolph County Shriners for their donation of $100 to help get the pantry started.
"Hopefully the pantry will be up and running by mid-April or possibly sooner. We are in our infancy stages right now, but once we get organized, it is hoped that the food pantry will be able to serve needy students throughout the year."