ARLINGTON — Weston High School students had one less concern to shoulder over the winter break, as several community organizations came together to ensure that they wouldn’t have to worry about hunger during the holidays.
Andrea Conley, public information coordinator for the Arlington School District, explained that several Weston students have already benefitted from a “weekend backpack program,” through which they can take home backpacks filled with food over the weekends when they don’t have access to the Federal Lunch Program. Holly Sloan-Buchanan and Deana Dean helped provide two-week backpacks for 28 Weston students, with the support of the Arlington Fire Department and a number of other clubs and businesses.
Dean orchestrated the Arlington Fire Department’s application for a $500 grant to support the backpack program, both over the winter break and throughout the year. Weston High School Principal Amie Verellen-Grubbs credited Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert with connecting the school and its families to the fire department and other local resources.
“It is an incredible demonstration of the giving nature of the Arlington community working together,” Verellen-Grubbs said of the donations, which also included food from the Arlington Kiwanis Club and IGA, nine holiday dinners for Weston families donated by the Arlington Lions Club, and Roston Automotive’s contributions to other Weston families. “Roston adopted a displaced family by giving them Christmas presents, and worked with a student who’s homeless and living out of their vehicle to get it running and get them mobile. Roston has also offered to help any students with transportation problems get back on the road.”
A number of Weston students are similarly classified as displaced, and Verellen-Grubbs pointed out that this affects what sorts of foods the school has learned to fill their backpacks with, since foods requiring extensive preparation or ingredients for larger meals are difficult for homeless families to utilize.
While Tolbert joined Arlington Fire Department personnel in delivering donations to Weston on Dec. 14, Thor McIlrath provided a pizza party for the entire school on Dec. 21, the last day of school before winter break, in his words, “Just because.” McIlrath owns a small retirement firm in Smokey Point and uses the Weston facility in the evenings for retirement classes a couple of times each year.
“Binky Patrol Comforting Covers even donated 12 blankets for Weston students who are parents,” said Conley, who echoed Verellen-Grubbs’ assessment that “this is an incredible outreach from our community to these students.”
“The 18- to 21-year-olds in our transition program even put together the packages,” Amie Verellen-Grubbs said. “We are tremendously thankful for this thoughtful generosity.”