Pine-Richland middle schoolers Spread The Love with charity drive

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

While some were out buying chocolates, roses or teddy bears for loved ones, a group of compassionate seventh-graders at Pine-Richland Middle School spent the week of Valentine's Day collecting items to give to strangers in need.

The students of the middle school's Team 7C organized a school-wide food and warm clothing drive they called Spread The Love from Feb. 10 to 14 to donate items to the Lighthouse Foundation food bank in Middlesex and Keep Yinz Warm in Valencia.

“These kids have huge hearts,” said Crystal Krepin, Team 7C reading teacher and Spread The Love adviser.

Greta Winkler, one of the students who spearheaded the drive, said she was inspired to help others after learning about homeless people in America in class.

“It just makes me cry that a lot of people don't have the money or the ability to go out and buy groceries,” said Greta, 12. “You see so many people buying stuff and they walk right past others who can't afford food or clothes.”

Each day of Spread The Love had a different theme.

Monday they collected nonperishable breakfast items, Tuesday was lunch items, Wednesday dinner items and Thursday snacks and beverages. Friday was dedicated to the clothing drive for Keep Yinz Warm.

By the end of the week, nearly 200 food items and more than 65 items of clothing had been collected.

The drive was borne out of a class discussion about how society treats the less fortunate.

In late fall, Krepin's reading classes read an article on homelessness in America. Krepin said a lot of her students were surprised by statistics regarding homeless people in the U.S.

After reading about homelessness, the students were given a topic to write about in their journals based on Mahatma Gandhi's quote, “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.”

The two assignments sparked conversations among the students about what they could do to help others in their community. With some guidance from Krepin, they decided to do a food and clothes drive around Valentine's Day to “spread the love around.”

“It makes me feel really proud,” Krepin said. “I'm proud to be a part of a school district where kids want to help people.”

The students did most of the work Krepin said, including painting signs to post around the school, emptying collection bins, checking expiration dates on donated food and making announcements across the school.

Greta said because this service project has gone so well, she hopes it will inspire students in other grades to step up and do their own service project to help those in need.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or

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