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Donations for student food pantry accepted at Monday’s 5th-and-6th-grade concert

Donations for student food pantry accepted at Monday’s 5th-and-6th-grade concert
This Charles City Student Food Pantry bin located at Hy-Vee is one of several in the community. Other drop-off sites are located at the middle school and high school offices, the office at Washington Elementary School, the office at Immaculate Conception school, the YMCA, Fidelity Bank and SNAP Fitness. (Press photo James Grob.)
By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

The band and orchestra concerts presented by Charles City Middle School’s 5th-and-6th-graders have always been free and open to the public.

Those attending Monday’s concert, at 7 p.m. at North Grand Auditorium, can still make a contribution, though, if they choose to.

Patrons to the concert can bring a food item or other packaged daily necessity and drop it off as they enter the auditorium, and the donation will go to the Charles City Student Food Pantry, a fairly new expansion of what is known as “Karleen’s Closet.”

“Non-perishables are really what we’re looking for,” said Charles City instrumental music teacher Renee Boss.

The closet is filled with donated items for kids who, for whatever reason, don’t have them. Things such as clothing, shoes, sporting supplies and toiletry and hygienic items are accepted and stored there.

The idea grew out of Charles City’s peer mentoring program, Project Rise, which is a student-led, peer-to-peer program where high school kids volunteer their time to help middle school kids.

What started off as a small collection of things like clothing and shoes eventually evolved to include personal items and much more. Now, it has expanded to food.

Students who have challenges getting fed away from school are welcome to take food home with them, according to Justin DeVore, communications director for the Charles City School District.

Boss said she was really excited to be collaborating with Karleen’s Closet.

“We see the needs daily at the school,” Boss said. “There are more kids who need this than we realize. We need to take care of our own.”

Food items that can be donated include breakfast items such as Granola bars, cereal, Pop Tarts, instant oatmeal and pancake mix and syrup. Meals can include packages of spaghetti noodles and sauce, bread, Ramen Noodles, Easy Mac, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, soup, SpaghettiOs, canned ravioli, canned tuna, canned chicken, canned fruit and vegetables, Spam, Hamburger Helper, Tuna Helper and Manwich.

Snack items that can be donated include cheese and crackers and applesauce. Packaged items such as small laundry detergents, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, and toothbrushes and toothpaste are also sought.

The closet is named for Karleen Sickman, who is an intervention room coordinator for the Charles City School District and helped student mentors at the school with the project.

Project “RISE” stands for “Respect, Integrity, Success, and Empowerment.”

Dan Caffrey, Charles City High School at-risk coordinator and dropout prevention specialist, is the faculty leader of Project RISE, although the students run the program.

Student mentors are encouraged to do community service projects, and so they started brainstorming and decided they should have some extra things for middle school-aged kids who “sometimes don’t have what everyone else has,” according to Sickman. The students started to collect items that kids might need to help them get through middle school and early high school years.

The program works through a network of communication. A teacher might notice something, or a student might reach out to an adult in the building, and that adult will reach out to Karleen’s Closet on behalf of that student. The mentor group also sometimes reaches out.

Boss said that if it goes over well Monday, the school district’s fine arts directors are considering accepting donations at all events that are free to the public.

As for the concert Monday, Boss said the students are excited to perform.

“The 5th-graders have three months of instruction, so this will be their debut performance,” Boss said. “The 6th-graders will be our veterans Monday.”

Speaking of veterans, since Monday is Veterans Day, Boss said one of the selections performed by the 6th-grade band will be in honor of veterans.

In a related item, Monday’s scheduled school board meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m., and will be held in the Iowa Big North classroom at the North Grand Building, so that those attending the meeting can easily attend the concert if they’d like to.

Those not attending the concert Monday night who would still like to donate to the Charles City Student Food Pantry can do so at locations at the middle school and high school offices, the office at Washington Elementary School, the office at Immaculate Conception school, Hy-Vee, the YMCA, Fidelity Bank and SNAP Fitness.

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