First-ever CHS event to benefit Merrimack Valley Food Bank
CHELMSFORD, MA (Nov. 29, 2022) – When Chelmsford High School senior Jash Bhut attended the McCarthy Middle School, he looked forward to the Project 300 Thanksgiving food drive. He estimates he and his family donated more than 1,000 items during his four years.
He always wanted to bring it to the high school.
Sophomore Blake Downs, who is spearheading his Boy Scouts of America Troop 81 annual food drive this year, summoned the students and staff at CHS to help his effort.
When each found out about the other, they figured why not collaborate.
“I was really passionate about it. It’s something that I really loved doing,” said Mr. Bhut, the senior class treasurer. “We saw the Troop 81 fundraiser was going and we didn’t want to step on their toes. We’ll add Project 300, the competition-based aspect here, and we’ll get twice as many cans.”
A Thanksgiving food drive has long been a staple in Troop 81 and Mr. Downs wanted to oversee it this year. “It’s kind of been handed down and people are passionate about it,” he said. “I’m trying to keep up the tradition and keep it going.”
The result was 1,553 pounds of food which, according to Merrimack Valley Food Bank Executive Director Debbie Callery, is enough to feed more than 1,200 people this Thanksgiving. Between inflation, rising gas prices and projected 60 percent increases in home energy costs, the drive could not have been timelier.
“The need is so great at the pantries,” said Ms. Callery, who noted the MVFB supplies 120 feeding programs in 32 cities and towns in Massachusetts. “Chelmsford is seeing an uptick in those visiting the pantries, and they’re not all from Chelmsford. They’re seeing people from Nashua and Lowell and they’re serving them all.”
Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during Plus Block (classes from 9:27-10:12 a.m.), Mr. Bhut, his fellow Class of 2023 officers, and Mr. Downs split up to visit every class, push carts in hand, to take away the donations.
They made it interesting: The class which generated the most items will receive a catered breakfast during Plus Block. That honor went to mathematics educator Matthew Witte’s class, which collected 1,552 items. French educator Veronica Gadbois class collected 845 and mathematics teacher Jennifer McManus’s 207.
At the final count, Mr. Bhut, the student officers, and Mr. Downs collected close to 4,000 non-perishable items. “I feel like getting 4,000 cans was a really big success for us,” Mr. Bhut said. “We expected maybe 1,500. We saw a lot of people showing a lot of love. I’m really happy with it and it’s only going to go up from here.”
Mr. Bhut originally intended to bring Project 300 to the high school right after his freshman year, but the Covid-19 outbreak derailed his plan.
“At the start of the senior year, I proposed the idea to everyone, and everyone thought it was a good idea,” Mr. Bhut said. “Coming into high school freshman year, it was kind of sad to not have it here. I want to go back to the days where I was helping people. I don’t want to lose that passion ever.”
About Chelmsford Public Schools
The Chelmsford Public School District provides all students with multiple pathways to optimize their own potential for academic excellence, leadership, and social and emotional wellness. The mission of the Chelmsford Public Schools is to educate, engage, prepare, and empower well-rounded and knowledgeable learners to PERSEVERE through challenges, demonstrate RESPECT and INTEGRITY in their words and actions, are DEDICATED to their community, and display EMPATHY as global citizens while discovering and pursuing their full potential. This PRIDE-driven culture enables all members of the school community to support the growth and development of students. For more information, please visit www.chelmsfordschools.org.