By Julie Huss
---- — It’s more than food for thought. When local residents are hungry, the community steps up.
For Judy Jurentkuff, director of Derry’s First Baptist Church food pantry, it’s a godsend to have schools, churches and businesses offer donations of food.
She said people are very generous at this time of year.
“Things are looking better than they were,” Jurentkuff said. “Things were terrible there for a while.”
Jurentkuff may see 450 people in a month’s time at the food pantry. Seasonal donation drives keep the shelves stocked.
Gilbert H. Hood Middle School’s National Junior Honor Society hosts a food drive every year and distributed 1,700 items earlier this week to local food pantries.
Principal Austin Garofalo said students, families and staff were very generous. It’s a lesson in volunteerism and community spirit for the students, he said.
“They’re doing charity work, they are getting involved in the community,” Garofalo said. “You can’t stop them, they are so fired up about helping.”
Hood student Chloe Falwell said it’s important to help others.
“If I were in trouble, I would want someone to help me,” she said.
Londonderry students are doing their part, too.
Fire department members will pick up donations from schools this week to take to the Central Fire Station. Lions Club members will sort the food and fill boxes. More than 100 families will be helped this year.
“It’s good to help,” Londonderry Middle School sixth-grader Samantha Heinrich said, “with the economy and all the jobs lost.”
Classmate Shaun Sullivan brought in several cans of food.
“It’s for all the people that don’t have enough money to pay for food,” he said.
Students who brought in five cans earned a free homework pass.
Pinkerton Academy’s Class of 2017 collected food to support their own. Boxes of food will go to Pinkerton families in need.
“It’s all anonymous,” said Kyle Plante, class advisor and Pinkerton science teacher.
Plante said students decorated boxes to place around campus to collect donations.
Churches also do their part.
St. Luke’s United Methodist Church has its own small food closet, but collects food every week for the Derry food pantry. Children in Sunday School decorate brown paper bags with original artwork and church families fill them with food.
St. Luke’s member Barbara Clements said all donations help feed families.
“We’re trying to give them what we can,” she said.
Jurentkuff said she appreciates all the help.
“Sometimes we even take the decorated bags and hang them on the wall,” she said.
The Derry Community Fund is gearing for its annual food distribution event. A room at the Marion Gerrish Community Center is filled with food this week to get ready for a “shopping” time for those families that applied for aid.
Last year, the Community Fund helped more than 200 families at Thanksgiving. Other community groups supported another 115 families.
Jurentkuff said food donations will continue all through the holiday season, but after that the shelves will need to be filled.
“Then we have to worry again,” she said.