The busy hum of contented, purposeful, helpful work buzzed along the hallway, into the storage room and between the fast-filling shelves.
The past four years or so, the Killeen Independent School District Homeless Awareness Response Program leaders have known they could count on the Skipcha Elementary School Leadership Team for a huge load of nonperishable food items this time of year.
In their typical fashion Thursday, 50 fourth- and fifth-graders boxed, loaded, unloaded and shelved donated canned food items on the HARP pantry shelves at the KISD Jackson Professional Learning Center in Killeen.
The food benefits students and family members who meet the federal guidelines for homelessness.
The school district also maintains a clothes pantry at a site on Rancier Avenue for HARP approved families.
There are currently more than 500 KISD students identified homeless.
Skipcha Counselor Patricia Journey said the annual service project is effective because students can see it from start to finish. Members of student council and Student 2 Student combined to promote the food drive since the start of November.
“They actually did the collection,” Journey said. “They went to classes to remind them. They were constantly sorting and keeping track.”
A group of 50 Skipcha student council members delivered food to the HARP pantry.
Another 50 students, part of S2S, made decorations for the community’s Feast of Sharing event.
“They can see that it’s going somewhere,” the counselor said of the group’s efforts to collect food and other service work the student leadership groups plan. “The focus is always community driven.”
“We’re helping homeless families get food,” said fifth-grader ShyAnn King, president of the Skipcha student council. “I eat every day, but I know not everyone can. It feels good to help out and to give back.”
Fifth-grader Bevin Parker, the council vice president, agreed the effort was rewarding. “It feels good to be part of a group and to work together. We’ve accomplished a lot.”
“I’m happy,” said fourth-grade student council vice president Sahara Ruth. “We have loads of food to help those who just have a little. It’s important for us to help people who need food.”
Phyllis Rosen, the KISD administrator for special programs including the homeless, looked on with approval as the fourth- and fifth-graders filled shelf after shelf with beans, corn, peanut butter and other non-perishable items for donation.
“They learn a lot,” said Rosen, noting that the students checked expiration dates on cans and received instruction on nutrition. There was also impressive collaboration.
“They worked so well together,” she said. “You can see the leadership skills and the teamwork. We just stood back and let them do it. They are fabulous.”
In addition to providing food and clothes to qualified students and family members, KISD HARP prepares food baskets for the two-week holiday break, for spring break and for emergency situations.
Those interested in assisting can contact HARP at 254-336-0372.