Harshman and Gleaners

GIVING BACK, TOGETHER — More than 30 girls from Harshman Middle School perfomred community service at Gleaners Food Bank, boxing food for local schools with on-site food pantries.

In early December, more than 30 teenage girls rolled up their sleeves to assemble boxes, and sort and pack a variety of food inside the warehouse at Gleaners Food Bank for students just like them.

Harshman and Gleaners

According to some of the girls, the boxes they packed were slated for schools that have on-site food pantries supplied by Gleaners.

The students are members of four advisory groups at Harshman Middle School, where they often work on conflict resolution and developing the skills needed to channel their emotions in positive ways.

But, at Harshman, advisory group members are also required to perform community service.

“Our girls said they didn’t want to pick up trash like everybody else does; they wanted to do something with the homeless or food,” said Kari Clark, one of the advisory teachers. “When one of the students mentioned that she was familiar with Gleaners because at one point in her life she and her mom used their services, it was a done deal. They had found their community service project.”

Clark’s advisory group, which spearheaded the community project at Gleaners, is the same group of students who won the Kindness Challenge in October.

Volunteering at Gleaners offered a real-world experience that “made it more meaningful for all of the girls,” said Clark. “The powerful part was when the student who had received from Gleaners got kind of nostalgic when we got there. She was recalling her time using the service and said that it felt good not be on the receiving end but being able to give to a place that had once given to her and her family.”

Students also felt pride in what they did.

“We just wanted to give back to the community” said Angelina W., 13. “And I like seeing other people happy. If I’m happy, I think other people should be happy.”

Volunteering isn’t new to Gabi S., 13. “I love volunteering,” she said. “I volunteer at my church all of the time.” But working inside a warehouse assembly line was a new experience for most, if not all, of the girls.

Gabby J., 13, said the fast-paced speed of the assembly line is something they all had to get used to, but they got the hang of it.

“It was kind of fun because it was like a rush and we all had to do our part,” she said. “It was fun and everybody was talking to each other and we were urging each other on.”

During their time at Gleaners, students packed a variety of nonperishable items — from canned vegetables to granola bars, apple juice, mandarin oranges and SpaghettiOs.

“Just knowing that someone was going to get all of this food and knowing that we were doing it just gave us a good feeling,” said Gabby J.