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Scouting for Food Nets 5,000 Lbs. for Manna

The donation drive ended Saturday, where volunteers from Pennbrook and St. Cyril's in Jamison, Bucks County, organized and stocked donations in Manna's pantries. It also coincided with the Lansdale Business Association's Pre-Parade Pancak

The dump trucked pulled up in the rear of Manna on Main Street Saturday morning, stuffed with boxes, which were, in turn, stuffed with non-perishable items collected from the Boy Scouts' Scouting for Food drive.

One by one, Scouts from Troop 303 from Corpus Christi Church in Upper Gwynedd picked up a box from the truck, donated by Sam Harkins, handed it to another Scout, Cub Scout from Pack 303, or parent, and took it inside to be sorted onto shelves in the food pantries.

"It's better than the last four years," said Eagle Scout Paul Rakszawski with Troop 303 of the "Scouting for Food" response. "We have beautiful weather and a great turnout. It's been amazing to see how generous people are."

Meanwhile, dozens upon dozens of student volunteers from Pennbrook Middle School in North Penn School District and St. Cyril's Church of Jerusalem in Jamison, Bucks County, checked expiration dates and sorted donations into numerous bins labeled for the likes of soups, cereals, toilet paper.

By the end of the day, more than 5,000 pounds of items were estimated to have been collected for Manna on Main Street.

Manna's Communications Coordinator Kristyn Didominick said the "Scouting for Food" drive benefits Philabundance and local food pantries.

"This is one of our biggest drives for the year," she said. "It's really an extraordinary effort. This will get us through the holiday season."

Jesse Clancy, guidance counselor at Pennbrook Middle School, said the Pennbrook Volunteer Corps' community service club had about 24 of its 100 members on-hand on Saturday. He said the corps has been in effect for at least the past eight years.

"This is our first year at Manna's new location," said Clancy. "Our kids organize the donations, check for dates, sort by type of food and build up the pantry. The piles get smaller and the things inside get bigger."

Clancy said the students were volunteering on their own good wills — and not because of punishment or a requirement.

"They are here because they want to help out every year. I'm really impressed with them," he said. "There are kids that would rather be sleeping in on a Saturday morning, or playing video games. They decided to help out and be a part of this."

St. Cyril's Youth Minister Dan Rackers said volunteers are comprised from the middle school and high school youth ministries.

"Throughout the course of the year, the students do different service projects. About five years ago, we heard about this and did some investigation and found out about this soup kitchen and food pantry," he said. "It has really given them an opportunity to see that people are in need, where we may not be in need ourselves."

He said the volunteerism at Manna gives the youth ministries a glimpse of life, where conditions that people live in are not homogenous to their own.

"It ties in with the Gospel. We impart to them that when they do this, they are living the Gospel," Rackers said.

While the drive was occurring outside, the Lansdale Business Association's Pre-Parade Pancake Pandemonium Fundraiser was simultaneously happening inside Manna.

Two St. Cyril's members, Georgia Gianios and Allie Saile, served pancakes and thick sausages to attendees. Next to them, Manna Assistant Food Service Aide Nancy Day kept the pancakes coming on the grill. Other volunteers from Manna and St. Cyril's tended to the dining room, serving coffee, fruit cups and juice to eaters.

Manna Volunteer Coordinator and Community Outreach member Anthony Tarzia said the more than 5,000 pounds of food should help Manna for the next month or two.

"If nothing else, we'll have a drive in the beginning of January," Tarzia said. "With the amount of food, it's hard to keep it on the shelves."

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