Girls on the Run program organizes food drive

Published 9:51 am Friday, May 13, 2016

Despite the name of their group, people won’t have to chase down the members of Patrick Hamilton’s Girls on the Run team to find them next Saturday, May 21.

The 10 girls, along with their coaches, will be stationed outside of Dowagiac’s Harding’s and Family Fare stores from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day, as they collect nonperishable food items and monetary donations from customers. The team is organizing the food drive for Dowagiac’s ACTION ministries food pantry for its community impact project.

Team coach Angela Solloway and her daughter, Donni, suggested the idea of organizing a food drive to the children as a service project, which the girls responded well to, Solloway said.

“Some of the kids said they’ve had family members or themselves use the pantry before, so they thought it was a wonderful idea,” she said.

Giving back to the community is one of the requirements of Girls on the Run, a 10-week afterschool program designed to improve the self confidence of girls in third through fifth grade, Solloway said. Meeting twice a week after class, the members of the Patrick Hamilton program work on exercises designed to improve their self-esteem as well as train for a 5K run that will take place June 4 in Lawton alongside other girls in Cass and Van Buren counties.

This is the first year that Solloway and her daughter have served as coaches for the program. The pair decided to work with the organization as a way to give back, as Donni, now 19, was once a member of a team when she was in elementary school.

The program helped her during a tough period in her life, as she was recovering from a dog attack that left her with scars across her face, Solloway said

“They taught her to love herself, to find her inner beauty,” she said. “It brought out her self confidence. I’ve seen the difference it made in her life.”

In addition to heading up the Pat Ham team, the two also serve as the coaches of the Cassopolis’ Sam Adams Elementary team. The members of that group recently completed their community impact project last month, helping to cleanup the village’s South Side Park, Solloway said.

In addition to the collection on Saturday, classrooms across all of Patrick Hamilton are collecting food for the drive, with the class that collects the most food receiving a pizza party, Solloway said.

The drive will come at an important time for local families, as the school year comes to a close and parents will be responsible for feeding their children more often, Solloway said.

Even if people don’t want to donate canned or other nonperishable goods, monetary donations will be gladly accepted, as ACTION can use the funds to purchase food for pennies on the dollar, she added.

The coach encourages locals to come out to support the drive next Saturday, as way to help out the community and show the Girls on the Run members that they care, Solloway said.

“For every action you take there’s a reaction,” she said. “We want to show the kids that you get a positive reaction whenever you choose to get involved.”