Wreathed in goodwill: fundraiser fights hunger

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BATH — A handful of students are hands-on when it comes to addressing local hunger issues this holiday season.

Eighth-graders at Bath Middle School this week made an assortment of wreaths, which they will sell this weekend in order to raise money to sponsor a “Food Mobile,” which provides food to those in need.

The wreaths will be sold at Dot’s Ice Cream Shop, 160 Front St., and Rogers Ace Hardware, 55 Congress Ave., from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 12.

It’s an effort spearheaded the past three years by BMS physical education teacher Tom Bennoch, who was also aided this week by fellow faculty members Paula Price, Deb Shearer and Jason Meserve.

“We talked … as a crew about doing some fundraising or community service,” Bennoch said Tuesday, adding that the Christmas trees he’d planted in his back yard gave him the idea for the wreaths.

The students last year raised $2,000 between the wreath sales and a penny drive, using half the funds to sponsor the food truck, and donating the rest to the Bath Area Food Bank.

“What I like about (the wreath project) is that the kids literally have their hands in it,” Bennoch said. “They get pretty proud of their work. People come in, and they’re buying something that (the students) created.”

By not only raising the funds, but coming out to work at the truck, the students “are able to see what their hard work and diligence produces,” Kimberly Gates, executive director of the Food Bank, noted earlier this month.

The food truck funded by the wreath sales operates at the Grace Episcopal Church, 1100 Washington St., between 2 and 3:30 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month.

Preparing for the approximately 10 students who would be showing up after school to make the wreaths, Bennoch dumped large bags of tree “tips,” all clipped from his backyard, on several work tables in the school’s technical education room.

About five tips are gathered together and clamped into a circle-shaped wire base. Several handfuls of those tips, overlapped, compose a wreath.

If there’s a slight gap between any of those sets? That’s a good place for the bow, Bennoch noted with a smile.

He hoped the students would make about 30 wreaths, which will be sold for $20 each. Donations will also be accepted, Bennoch said.

“People are very, very generous this time of year, and it goes to a very good cause,” he added.

It’s a cause the students enjoy advocating.

“We were informed about this issue in our community, and we all really wanted to come together and help raise money to provide food for people who can’t get enough,” said Abby Streden, an eighth-grader who took part in the effort last year as well.

Streden said she was surprised by how many people showed up at last year’s student-sponsored food truck, noting, “I didn’t expect as many people in our area to be food insecure.”

Fellow eighth-grader Hannah Goodman echoed that notion, saying it was “very eye-opening” to see the level of need.

Which makes what she and the other students do that much more important. And, perhaps, more rewarding.

“It feels good,” Goodman said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Hannah Goodman, left, and Aria French were among Bath Middle School eighth-graders making wreaths Tuesday afternoon. The decorations will be sold Saturday  to raise funds toward local hunger prevention.

Bath Middle School eighth graders Paige Willis, left, and Macy Cole use tips from trees in order to form wreaths.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.