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Special to the Enquirer Danville High students sort 31 garbage cans full of canned goods and food items for workers at The Caring Place in Hartselle to distribute to the community.

Students help nonprofit with food distribution for families

By Wes Tomlinson

For the Enquirer

A group of Danville High students helped sort food items this month at The Caring Place in Hartselle, and their efforts have already helped provide for more than two dozen families.

Danville sophomore Ava Mause said she hopes she and her classmates are setting an example for the rest of Danville High.

“We want to challenge people,” Mause said. “I didn’t even realize The Caring Place was here, so it’s cool to come in and see what all they do.”

The Caring Place is a food pantry operated by the Morgan Baptist Association and is open Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The association also owns a thrift shop next door called the Sycamore Bargain Center that is open Mondays through Thursdays.

Danville High had 39 students meet at The Caring Place and sort 31 full garbage cans of food items that were donated by Hartselle City Schools and Danville Middle School. Danville volunteer coach Rod Gillott said this has been the biggest fundraising effort since 2015.

“This will be the most we’ve ever unloaded,” Gillott said. “The last time, in 2020, we unloaded 27 garbage cans, and this year it’s 31.”

Gillott and Tonya Finch, a librarian at Danville High, said students wanted to volunteer and help the staff at The Caring Place, which consists of three individuals.

“It would take them a whole month to sort all of this out, and we can get it done in just a few hours,” Finch said.

In one hour, the students had sorted items filling 24 garbage cans — from vegetables and Ramen noodles to snack food and loaves of bread.

The Danville students, a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors, are involved in the National Honor Society and First Priority in Decatur – a ministry centered on establishing student-led faith-based groups in area schools. They have been volunteering at The Caring Place since 2015.

Gillott supervises the students in First Priority, and Finch said it was his idea to get students to volunteer at The Caring Place.

Caring Place director Virginia Alexander said her organization usually helps 40-50 Morgan County families per month.

“Since those students came here three weeks ago and sorted out those goods, we’ve been able to distribute them to around 25 families,” Alexander said.

Alexander said she and her workers are thrilled more young people are wanting to give back to their communities.

“It is wonderful for the students to see what’s happening behind the scenes,” Alexander said. “Several of the Danville students expressed that they would like to come and volunteer with us, and it’s a joy to see students care for other people in the community.”

Finch said this event was one of many her students with the National Honor Society have participated in this year.

“We just got through participating in Barrels of Love and the WAFF Canathon, and we’re currently raising pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House,” Finch said. “Our goal is always to beat the number the year before. So, last year we raised 20-something pounds of pop tabs that we were able to donate, so we’re going to try to beat that this year.”