Niles New Tech students partner with H.O.P.E. to collect donations for a local pantry

NILES — The food pantry shelves at Mount Calvary Helping Hands Ministry will be well stocked, thanks to the recent efforts of Niles New Tech students and volunteers from newly formed Helping Our People Evolve.

On Tuesday, about eight students braved the early morning chill to unload two cars packed with about 750 pounds of food. The food will help to support community members facing food insecurity who visit the local pantry for assistance.

As they shuttled in loaded down boxes and bulging bags, Susan Sobehrad, a Niles New Tech teacher, said she was proud to see students come together to support their Niles community.

“It was amazing, but our kids are amazing,” Sobrehrad said. “Kids want to help. They want to make a difference.”

The project was initiated by H.O.P.E. volunteer Beverly Woodson, who reached out to Niles Community Schools District Superintendent Dan Applegate and asked to get students involved. Applegate connected Woodson with Niles New Tech, and Sobrehrad said students were eager to help.

Ryan Kosten, an 11th-grade student at Niles New Tech, helped to expand the project’s reach into other schools. He visited his former school, Eastside Connections, and asked if they would contribute. For every two items that students donated, they had the opportunity to have a uniform-free day. Almost every student at Eastside participated.

“I was impressed, especially with how many people brought it into the high school. I did not expect a ton to participate,” Kosten said. “And then [almost] everybody at Eastside [helped].”

For their part, Niles New Tech students also brought in food donations or donated money to the cause. They were given a chance to wear pajamas to school if they donated.

Jan Mikel is a volunteer with Mount Calvary Helping Hands Ministry. She said the donations would help the pantry to better serve people in need.

“We see so many people that come through here,” Mikel said. “It will be a big help. People count on us for the pantry. It is a big blessing, especially around this time of year.”

The ministry also has a clothing closet that is available to people. Residents who use the ministry’s services must qualify. Mount Calvary Helping Hands Ministry is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday. It is located at 528 Ferry St. in Niles.

Woodson said H.O.P.E.’s mission is servicing the entire community. She said students’ partnership with the club showed that local youth could make a difference.

“We called, and they came,” Woodson said.

The H.O.P.E. club meets at 7 p.m. on the first Friday of the month. Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to attend a meeting and find out more.

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