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Donations sought for school rewards food drive

| Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, 1:06 a.m.
Amanda Freger, director of autism services, Highlands Hospital (kneeling) and Chip Rowan,executive director of Connellsville Area Community Ministries, are encouraging the public to donate food to help build a display that the Autism Center can enter into the Giant/ Food Stores Martin’s Food Markets contest for A+ School Rewards.
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Amanda Freger, director of autism services, Highlands Hospital (kneeling) and Chip Rowan,executive director of Connellsville Area Community Ministries, are encouraging the public to donate food to help build a display that the Autism Center can enter into the Giant/ Food Stores Martin’s Food Markets contest for A+ School Rewards.

To help provide hunger relief, Giant Food Stores and Martin's Food Markets recently announced the A+ School Rewards Fighting Hunger Challenge, a contest calling on schools to host food drives benefitting local food pantries, with prizes going to those with the best displays utilizing donated goods.

Highlands Hospital Regional Center for Autism is participating, with donated items going to Connellsville Area Community Ministries.

The public has a few days left to contribute, allowing the Center for Autism to have more items to work with when designing its display and getting more food to the food pantry at CACM.

Donations will be accepted at the Regional Center for Autism at 323 Breakneck Road until 4:30 p.m. Friday and through the weekend at a box in the lobby of Highlands Hospital on Murphy Avenue .

“The food drive is an extremely creative initiative by A+ School Rewards, Giant Foods and Martin's to help the community. Highlands Hospital Regional Center for Autism has the opportunity to win $1,000 by initiating this food drive, and in turn, the local community can benefit from the donated nonperishable items,” said Ann Nicholson, administrative assistant at the Autism Center. “Being a program in the growth phases, if our Autism Center wins, the funds will be put towards expanding therapeutic equipment for the students or electronics for their use.”

The food drive is happening at a good time, said Chip Rowan, executive director of the Connellsville Area Community Ministries. He said the CACM food pantry had a record number of clients in November and December, providing food to more than 600 families each month.

“The food collected by the Highlands Hospital Regional Center for Autism will help to restock our supply for future months. Thanks to everyone who joins in helping us to fight hunger in the Connellsville area,” said Rowan.

Amanda Freger, director of autism services at Highlands Hospital, said, “The food drive is a beneficial and creative way to support our local community. We've been accepting food donations which can help those in need, and in turn, our center may be rewarded with funds which we can put toward necessary equipment for the students. It is important to me to serve the community in every way we can, and events like this make it so easy and fun,”

Staffers have a top secret design planned that they will build as soon as all the food donations are received.

The 15th student will be starting at the Autism Center this month.

“Our goal is to fill our building very soon, and plans for expansion are in the works. Our students are meeting goals and we always get feedback from parents that they are happy to come to school,” said Nicholson. “I believe we are continually proving to be one of the greatest community assets for autism in the Laurel Highlands region.”

For information, call 724-603-3360.

Nancy Henry is a Trib Total Media contributing writer.

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