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On a bright, sunny afternoon, 22 students formed a single-file line in front of Black Mountain Primary to take a trip off campus. 

However, as the kindergarten class of Noelle Harralson stood on the sidewalk in front of their school with grocery bags in their little hands on May 2, they were embarking on much more than a simple field trip.

The students made the short trek across North Ridgeway Avenue as they delivered 1,224 food items, including canned goods, cereal, granola bars and more, to neighboring Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, which will make the items available to area residents in need through its food pantry. The items were collected during the school's annual Black Mountain Primary Share the Love Food Drive. 

"We have over 300 people come through our food pantry every month," said Cheryl Wilson, the executive director of SVCM. "Food is always a need for us."

Most deliveries don't arrive in the hands of kindergartners, she continued. 

"It's so heart-warming to see children take on a project like this," Wilson said. "This food will help feed families, elderly people in the community and many other individuals in the area."

The people dropping off the food may have been small, but the contribution was not, she continued.  

"This is a significant donation," Wilson said. "We're always happy to accept anything that people bring us, but over 1,000 items is wonderful. I'm so proud of the youth of this community for taking on this initiative and helping those in the community who need it."

The drive is organized every year by the Black Mountain Primary PTO, according to Jen Marsh, vice president of the organization. 

"We set a goal of 1,000 items this year," Marsh said. "We told every class they would get 15 extra minutes of recess if they hit the goal."

Last year the food drive collected just over 400 items, according to Marsh.

Four donation boxes were placed around the school through the month of April and Faith Hopey, whose son is in Harralson's class, volunteered to come in every week to count and big the food. She knew the drive would be a big success during the first week.

"Jen told me a roundabout number of what is normally raised during this drive," Hopey said. "My expectations were blown away that first week and I could tell this one was going to be far beyond what anybody expected."

Hopey, who is a pre-K teacher at Montreat Morning School, visited Black Mountain Primary twice a week to count the items in the boxes and bag them for delivery. 

"By the end of April we had a mountain of food," she said. "It was incredibly rewarding to be a part of it."

The students loaded Marsh's van with the majority of the food before each kindergartner walked a bag to the SVCM food pantry. When they arrived, Wilson and a team of volunteers were there to greet them. 

Once the delivery was complete, Wilson thanked the students and the school for their help. 

"This food will help a lot of people in your community," she said. 

The food drive provides students with a unique insight into the importance of helping others in the community, Black Mountain Primary principal Malorie McGinnis said. 

"We all believe that giving back is important, but when students are involved in community service they learn they are helping others," she said. "In doing so they also develop leadership skills, become more confident and I truly believe that they learn they can make a difference in the world."

McGinnis believes the children can learn valuable life lessons through their involvement with the drive.

"I hope they learn how important it is to support each other, and build each other up," she said. "I think all young children have that in them naturally. And if they see that happening outside of what their own families may do, and see the school doing the same thing, they realize that's helping everybody in the community."

 

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