They took a small piece of their day to make a big difference.
For the third year in a row, and in the 50th anniversary year of the March on Washington, Bridle Path Elementary students on Thursday improved the lives of clients of Manna on Main Street in Lansdale and Lamb Foundation in North Wales, and the lives of members of the North Penn Boys and Girls Club in Lansdale.
Students and their parents collected breakfast items, such as oatmeal, hot chocolate, raisins, granola and the like, bagged them and donated them to the Lansdale food pantry and soup kitchen, and the North Wales Borough supportive housing organization.
The student council at Bridle Path also banded together to collect winter coats for the young members of the North Penn Boys and Girls Club.
"Through the Home and School Association, all the familes donated all the breakfast items," said parent volunteer and co-coordinator Bonnie Greco. "In every classroom, each child decorated their own bag, stuffed it with the items and brought it down (to the lobby). We do this in honor of Martin Luther King Day."
All in all, more than 600 bags were donated to Manna and Lamb Foundation.
In the lobby of Bridle Path, on Thursday afternoon, parent volunteers organized the many boxes and bags of donations, before students carried them out to an awaiting bus.
Greco said the 18th Annual Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service T-shirts that each student wore — emblazoned with King's image and a design marking 2013 as the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — were donated from Global Citizen.
"We strive to do a yearly service project of some sort," Greco said. "They all appreciate it, and it's easy for families to contribute to it."
Bridle Path Principal Jeffrey Macosko said the project is a great opportunity for students to take the time to realize there are a lot of people in the community that are less fortunate than them.
"The holiday is about reaching out to others and doing for others," Macosko said. "It's not just about Martin Luther King Jr.; it's about anti-bullying, about Olweus, about understanding we all get by as best as we can."
Macosko said the curriculum does teach students about King Jr. There is also a common story that teachers tell to students about helping others, with the moral basis of knowing the difference between a bucket filler and a bucket dipper.
The students today were bucket fillers," Macosko said.
As students carried boxes of bags into Manna on Main Street, the excitement was evident.
"It's awesome that we can deliver this to the people that need it," exclaimed sixth-grader Erin Pfister.
Manna Volunteer Coordinator Anthony Tarzia gave a tour of the facility on West Main Street to the students, parent volunteers and accompanying faculty.
They all learned that Manna serves 300 families a month in its food pantry, totaling more than 85 tons of food a year. Families are eligible for the food pantry as long as they reside in the North Penn School District.
The bags made for Manna on Thursday will go to clients who eat at Manna's daily soup kitchen.
"They are wonderful things to give to our clients," Tarzia said. "Our clients in the soup kitchen don't take food, so it's nice to have the bags for them as something to take home. They appreciate how they are all decorated. It makes them feel special, and it's important that you take the time to do that."
Manna serves about 80 clients a day in its soup kitchen, Tarzia said. The 300 bags will last for a few days, he said.
Students learned that clients of the soup kitchen may not have enough money to get food. Manna serves them a full hot meal daily. And anyone who is hungry can come in off the street for a hot meal, Tarzia said.
All in all, Manna serves 22,000 meals a year in the kitchen.
"People don't leave Manna hungry," Tarzia said.
Tarzia was amazed by the students' donations at all three locations.
"It's a wonderful thing you are doing," he said. "You're sharing not just with us, but others too."
At North Penn Boys and Girls Club, program director Matt Reimel gave a tour of the facility, which included the weight room, gymnasium, video game room and small gymnasium where it holds its Tween Nights.
Students were humbled by the services provided by all three organizations, especially Manna.
"It's nice to know what we're doing is going to help somebody," said Alex Ogur, a sixth-grader at Bridle Path.
"You realize how lucky and fortunate you are," said fifth-grader Daniel Sanchez.
"It's a nice experience for people who haven't been here before," said fourth-grader Liam Carlin.
Want to join the Bridle Path Home and School Association? There are more than 20 committees with parent volunteers who organize activities and events. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridle Path Home and School meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the library. Download a Welcome Packet for more information.