MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Students from Lakeview Elementary School marked their 100th day of school in a very special way last week.

As part of National Random Acts of Kindness Day on Thursday, Feb. 16, the students (and faculty) set out to collect at least 100 boxes of healthy breakfast foods and donate them to the St. John the Evangelist Church food pantry. They doubled their goal and collected 200 boxes.

The students—first graders and some second graders—

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arrived by bus at the church Thursday morning and one by one brought their donations to a table as the teachers helped the kids count the boxes out loud. Everyone erupted in cheers when they reached number 100.

“At Lakeview Elementary, we want all of our children to receive a solid education, but we also want them to grow up to be kind and caring citizens,” said Lisa Ettlinger, the Lakeview first-grade teacher who organized the event. “We wanted to show our students that it can be as rewarding to give as it is to receive.”

When the students arrived at the food pantry, Ettlinger asked if anyone could explain why they had come.

“We are trying to spread kindness to people who don’t have money,” was one first grader’s response.

“Our goal was to try to collect at least 100 boxes of healthy breakfast foods to donate [to the pantry],” Ettlinger said. “Our theme was ‘A Smart Start Warms the Heart.’ The children decorated a heart that we taped to their box.”

St. John’s Deacon Bernie Moran and his wife, Terry, were on hand to greet the kids and said they were appreciative of the donations.

“It’s lovely,” said Terry Moran. “It’s very helpful because we serve about 500 families a month. We served a total of about 19,000 last year.”

The St. John’s food pantry is available to any Putnam County resident and is open every Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. Recipients only have to show proof of Putnam County residency to accept a donation.

Deacon Moran said the Lakeview project not only helped the food pantry but also provided the students with an excellent lesson.

“It gives them an idea of what is going on [in the world],” he said. “There are a lot of people who need help. It’s a great way to start the year and a way of giving back.”

Ettlinger said she was thrilled with the students’ response.

“This is the first time we did this and I am happy with the job the kids did,” she said. “It was very successful.”