‘This was a total group effort’ | Livingston Parish students organize food drive for local food pantries, families in need

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Volunteers organize food brought by donors during the Livingston Helping Other People Eat (H.O.P.E.) food drive that was held last week.
David Gray | The News

MAUREPAS, La. (The Livingston Parish News) — Teenagers across Livingston Parish recently teamed up to fight hunger and spread hope.

The student-led Livingston Helping Other People Eat (H.O.P.E.) food drive was held last week, when more than a dozen students collected hundreds of non-perishable food items to be dispensed among local food pantries and families in need.

The three-day food drive was organized by Bryce Felps, a student at Maurepas and the Livingston Parish 2019-20 High School Student of the Year. Several other students from area high schools joined Felps in the effort, collecting and organizing hundreds of food and monetary donations brought by people in their local communities.

The students also had help from multiple Beta Club sponsors and other teachers, who worked with the students to get the word out and collect donations. The plan is to help replenish local food pantries that have been hit hard amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Felps credited everyone involved for making the food drive a success.

“This was a total group effort,” Felps said. “Without everybody involved, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Felps said the idea for the food drive came during a conversation he had with Addy Howell, a student at Albany High. After the two talked, Felps said they started reaching out “to everyone we knew” to see if anyone else was interested in doing something for the community.

Howell and Felps quickly learned they weren’t alone — fellow students wanted to lend a helping hand to others.

“We haven’t been able to do much because of the coronavirus, and we all wanted to do something,” Felps said.

Across the parish, student volunteers collected food that people brought to six locations in Maurepas, French Settlement, Livingston, Albany, Springfield, and Holden. Volunteers kept a running tally of the food that was brought in before organizing it by category.

Pretty soon, food items such as soup, beans, pasta, cereal, juice boxes, canned veggies, chips, crackers and other goods started slowly filling up drop-off points at Maurepas Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church in Livingston, French Settlement Town Hall, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Albany, First UPC of Holden, and the old Piggly Wiggly parking lot in Springfield.

There were three separate collection days, and each day drew many student volunteers who collected the items, kept the tallies, stored items in boxes, or stood on the street waving signs encouraging people to donate.

Each collection site was managed by a student leader who was in charge of getting the word out and keeping track of the donations. Student leaders included Howell and Allison DePriest, of Albany High; Bailey Hull, Allie Smith, and Joel Penalber, of Holden High; Mary Hutchinson, of French Settlement High; and Blair Simon, of Springfield High.

Hutchinson, who is entering her senior year at French Settlement High, said the food drive gave her a chance to do something in her community after the coronavirus pandemic shut down most of those opportunities over the last three months.

“I have always loved volunteering and helping out others, and I’ve been doing it since I was little,” she said. “This was a great opportunity for me and others to do something for other people who may be in need of it.”

With collection wrapping up on Saturday, Felps said volunteers will meet at Bethel Baptist Church in Livingston to tally up all of the donations and decide where they will be sent. He added that he hopes the food drive will inspire more collaboration between the communities of Livingston Parish in the future.

“I’ve always wanted to do something to connect all the communities,” he said. “I hope after this, people will realize you can reach out to other communities and connect with them and work together.”

David Gray | The News

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