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Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School students help to feed families for holidays

  • Written by Kelly White

sheedys photo 12-21

Photo by Kelly White

Nolan Sheedy, 8, of Oak Lawn, and his mother, Melissa Sheedy, package meals together during the District 123's Fifth Annual Feed6 Meal Packaging event on Saturday morning at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School.

Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School students spent Saturday afternoon packing meals from the heart.

The school, at 5345 W. 99th St. in Oak Lawn, and District 123 hosted its Fifth Annual Feed6 Meal Packaging event, where students, families, teachers, and staff gathered together for a two-hour event, packaging fortified meals to be delivered to local food pantries.

“This is an event that is for everyone,” said Heather McCarthy, a seventh-grade English Language Arts teacher at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School. “People of all different ages and backgrounds stand side by side working together for the betterment of their community. Friendships are made and everyone bonds over the common joy of giving back to others. It's a fun event that involves music, dancing, and cheering along with the meal packing.”

For the past four years, McCarthy has been partnering with Feed6 to organize this event. Feed6 organizes meal packaging events in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, where volunteers come together to package nutritional meals of macaroni and cheese fortified with soy and vitamins -- many multiples more nutritious than popular brands available in the supermarket.

This year, Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School’s Community liaison officer Larry Fetchko joined McCarthy as a co-chair for the event.

“We are thankful to be part of such a giving community and the opportunity to celebrate together to help those less fortunate, especially in time for the holiday season,” Fetchko said.

Students have been working diligently to raise a minimum of $30 to help cover the costs of the food, materials, and delivery. Most students over Thanksgiving break asked family and friends for donations, and were encouraged by McCarthy and Fetchko to ask six family members for $5 each.

“They explained that for the price of a latte, you could help feed a hungry family,” McCarthy said. “The event is a chance for the community to come together and give back during this season of giving. Each year I get a tremendous amount of support from my administration, co-workers, and students.”

Students have been working diligently to raise a minimum of $30 each to help cover the costs of the food, materials, and delivery. Most students over Thanksgiving break asked family and friends for donations, and were encouraged by McCarthy and Fetchko to ask six family members for $5 each.

“They explained that for the price of a latte, you could help feed a hungry family,” McCarthy said. “The event is a chance for the community to come together and give back during this season of giving. Each year I get a tremendous amount of support from my administration, co-workers, and students.”

packaging photo 12-21

Photo by Kelly White

School District 123 hosted its Fifth Annual Feed6 Meal Packaging event, where students, families, teachers, and staff gathered together for a two-hour event on Saturday morning, packaging fortified meals to be delivered to local food pantries.

“Some of the most important feelings one can have are feeling important and feeling joy,” said Emily Hennigan, 13, of Oak Lawn. “Those are exactly the feelings I have when working with Feed6. I’m giving back to those in need and helping out my community.”

Through this effort, a total of $12,500 was raised, reaching a goal of packaging 50,000 meals. The fundraised money goes to Feed6, who purchases and ships the food to Oak Lawn Hometown Middle School. This amount raised tripled what the school has done in the past, according to Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School officials.

Last year, more than 150 volunteers were able to donate more than 17,000 meals for local food pantries.

“It’s pretty cool that we could have fun and help others at the same time,” said Donnie Taylor, 13, of Oak Lawn.

Receiving pantries every year include, but are not limited to: St. Linus food pantry, St. Catherine, St. Germaine food pantry, St. Gerald food pantry, Our Lady of Loretto food pantry, Oak Lawn Park District Veterans program, St. Paul Lutheran food pantry, PLOWS Council on Aging, Operations Blessings, Trinity Lutheran Pads program, Salem Baptist women’s shelter and PADS program, Pilgrim Faith food pantry and PADS program, Park Lawn residential housing program, Simmons Middle School social worker program, Justice food pantry, Evergreen Park food pantry, Worth food pantry and Almost Home.

Over 200 volunteers, a combination of students and their families, alumni, staff, and community me

All volunteers met in the school’s cafeteria where they received an apron, hairnet, and gloves for sanitary purposes. They then watched an instructional video on how to properly package the meals. After that, they were divided up into teams of 12, and each team formed an assembly line where they first fill a bag with macaroni noodles, soy, and a packet of cheese with fortified nutrients. The bag was then passed to the next station where it is weighed to match the nutrition label. Finally, the bag was sealed, receives a dated sticker, and is packaged. Each bag feeds six people.

“Many of the students said that they didn't know how great they would feel afterwards and are now encouraged to do more community service work,” McCarthy said.

Students reflected on her positive feedback.

“It's a good time because you are packaging food for people who really need it,” said Saeed Mulhem, 12, of Oak Lawn. “I keep coming back to volunteer each year because it's an event that helps people.”

“I enjoy being in this event because I like to help the less fortunate by making sure that they have a meal to eat,” said Jack Kazeneskie, 13, of Oak Lawn.