Have you ever heard of someone wanting or needing 407 boxes of cereal? Well, that’s exactly what we, sixth graders at Pierce School in Brookline, collected in our cereal drive for the Pine Street Inn, an organization that works to provide shelter for homeless men and women.
At Pierce School, we would usually collect toiletries for homeless people, but that was before we heard about the need for cereal from Elizabeth Condren, one of the directors at Pine Street Inn. Apparently, cereal is the most expensive food item Pine Street Inn requires because the residents eat it every morning. You might think they only need a little bit, but you’re wrong. Over 80 pounds of it is eaten everyday at each and every shelter in and around Boston.
Not only do the residents need cereal, but chocolate is also one of the main things that Pine Street Inn likes to be able to give people. You might be wondering, “How does chocolate help homeless people?” Well, chocolate helps them because some people who find themselves struggling to maintain a secure place to live sometimes also struggle with addiction to things like drugs and alcohol. When these people try to break the habit, sometimes their brains respond well to a substitute like chocolate. Also, we decided that everyone, no matter whether they are recovering from an addiction or not, might like chocolate.
To raise enough money to buy cereal, we needed people to help by donating. Cereal can cost more than $3 per box.
The sixth graders formed teams and each team was assigned a classroom from kindergarten to the eighth grade. Some teams worked on different presentations about homelessness for the students in these classrooms. For the younger children, we read picture books that dealt with homelessness and homeless people. For the older kids, we showed them portraits of homeless people and asked them to pick one person and write about them. Our goal was to help the students understand that anyone can become homeless no matter what your age, race or gender. We hoped these lessons would inspire them to donate. And donate they did.
Wondering what we did after we collected everyone’s donations everyday? Well, we stacked all the cereal on the shelves in the Pierce library, right outside our classroom. We almost ran out of shelves, there were so many boxes of cereal. But we had some interruptions to the collection, too. We had six snow days in just three weeks. So we couldn’t collect in those days because no one could come to school. This was a problem, but once our principal announced that we were doing a Pine Street Inn cereal and chocolate drive, there were almost 50 boxes everyday.
We were so grateful for how many boxes of cereal and bags of chocolate the students brought in. On the last day of the drive we put individually wrapped chocolate into bags with Valentine’s Day cards for the Pine Street Inn residents. We filled up nearly 625 bags.
What did we do with the cereal? Well, we put the boxes into giant plastic bags and then Elizabeth and some of her crew-members from Pine Street Inn came with vans and collected the boxes of cereal, bags of chocolate and the Valentines.
What was really nice was that a few weeks after the drive, we got a card from several residents that said, “Thank you sixth graders!” We were really glad that we were able to make a difference.
Be sure to flip through the gallery below to see the students at work!