NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Girl Scouts of all ages from North Plainfield have spent the month of March collecting food and raising funds to help families in need. Over a period of 15 days and a combined 25 hours, girls from nine different North Plainfield Girl Scout Troops collected more than 2,500 pounds of food and $640 in monetary gifts for the Somerset County Food Bank and the St. Vincent’s de Paul Society food pantry at St. Joseph’s Church.
This is the second year the Girl Scouts have collected for the food bank as a community service project, and it’s becoming an annual tradition. In previous years they partnered with the town’s Boy Scout troops, but in an effort to allow the girls take more responsibility the Girl Scouts decided to go their own way.
"With eighth-graders it’s more girl-led, so they are completely involved and the troop leaders are mostly there for guidance. The girls came up with the project themselves, developed the posters and promotion, and worked with community and business leaders to get materials donated and permission to ask customers for more," said Jana Lattimore, troop leader for Cadet Troop 63597 which organized the event. "It’s about the girls learning important leadership and communications skills as well as learning civic responsibility and the importance of helping others through these projects."
The effort started the first weekend of March where the eighth-grade girls hosted a basketball game against their middle-school teachers. The price of admission was a non-perishable food item. Food donations or a dollar could also get a treat from the bake sale, where all items were baked by the Girl Scout members with ingredients donated by Costco.
On top of the basketball game kickoff, the girls got permission from WalMart to stand outside every weekend from eleven in the morning to two in the afternoon and hand out flyers asking for specific food items from customers as they entered the store. Many purchased the item during their regular shopping and gave it to the girls on their way out.
Boxes were also placed at a number of churches, schools and in Borough Hall to allow other people in the community to participate.
Like many food pantries, the two food banks serving North Plainfield are running low on supplies for the people it helps. Over the past five years the number of families they support has increased steadily, and the recent economic downturn has brought more people who never expected to need the non-profits’ support.
"We really appreciate what the North Plainfield Girl Scouts do for the Food Bank, especially given how bare our shelves have gotten this winter," said Food Bank Network Executive Director Marie Scannell. "The Boy and Girl Scouts are so wonderful, and they are always there for us. It just works, and we would not be able to carry on without the Scouts’ food drives and fundraisers."
Julia Gomes, a member of Junior Troop 65255, was excited to be making a difference and also being able to direct adults on what to give and where to place their donations. "I like doing a good thing, and helping people who need it. I feel awesome," she said.
Her troopmate Kaila Barnes was also proud of the work they were doing. "I’m trying to get as much food as we can for people who are hungry, and to collect money for people who don’t have homes."
The troop even made up a song that they chanted loudly as they handed our sheets to passersby and collected food from donors.
You give food, and we deliver;
But we prefer; that it’s not liver … wurst.
The troop leaders, parent volunteers and shoppers passing by all laughed at the girl’s exuberance.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Somerset County Food Bank can drop off non-perishable food at their warehouse at 9E Easy Street, Bridgewater. Monetary gifts can be made online at the Food Bank website.
People wishing to donate to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank may bring non-perishable items to the vestibule of St. Joseph Church at 99 Westervelt Ave. in North Plainfield following Saturday’s 4:30 Mass or Sunday’s 9:00, 11:00, or 12:30 Masses. Items may also be dropped off at the Parish Center following daily Mass at 12:10 PM, or during business hours.
Those needing assistance can call the Somerset County Food Bank at (732) 560-1813 or the St. Joseph’s Church Parish Office at (908) 756-3383.