Local students refill empty shelves

Northland winters are tough on everyone.  The seemingly endless potholes that continually appear, the exceedingly cold temperatures, the icy sidewalks, etc. For some people in the area, the winter weather brings even more hardships.

The Union Gospel Mission is located on the 200 block of E 1st St. in Duluth.  The food shelf will be kicking off their March Food Drive in about a week.

Local food shelves often struggle to keep food on the shelves in the winter. The number of people looking for food increases up to 25 percent according to Jim Bogie, the Food Shelf Manager at the Union Gospel Mission. Bogie said that this year about 400 more people are coming through looking to get food. After the Christmas donations ran out, the shelves got so bare that the Union Gospel Mission was forced to buy food to give to people that came in. Bogie said that in his nine years at Union Gospel Mission, he has never had more people trying to get food. This year the struggle to keep enough food forced the Union Gospel Mission to put out the word to the community that they needed help.

That is when the St. James Catholic School came in. The school, located in West Duluth, tries to get its students involved in the community through a variety of projects. The sixth, seventh and eighth graders at St. James volunteer at the Union Gospel Mission once a month during the school year as part of their service-learning program. According to their teacher, Nadine Uremovich, during their January visit, Union Gospel Mission informed them that their shelves were completely bare and asked if the school could be part of their annual food drive. Uremovich was more than willing to help, and knew her students would be as well.

These shelves that would normally be overflowing with food are now bare, due to increased traffic at Union Gospel mission and fewer donations.

Uremovich said of the opportunity, “It helps the kids to see the needs in our community, and that’s part of our mission here at St. James is to make kids aware that there is a lot going on out there and there’s people out in the community that need us.”

The students responded immediately. After only one week of collecting items from family and friends, the class was able to get 365 items. They didn’t want to stop there though.

“We decided that 365 items was a really awesome thing, but we wanted to give a little bit more, so we thought that we would challenge the whole school to do 1,000 items,” Uremovich said.

Although doing a good deed and helping out those in need may have been reward enough, Mrs. Uremovich and the school administration decided to offer the students of St. James school an incentive.  If they met their goal of 1,000 items donated, the students would get one day without school uniforms, and on that day the teachers would instead have to wear the school uniform. This incentive motivated the students, but for many of them just helping out their fellow community members is motivation enough.

Mariah Collins, a seventh grader at the school said, “It feels good. Sometimes we help serve food there and and they need a lot of food there.”

Vienna Lagergren, a sixth grader said, “It makes me feel really good, because they were running out of food and I don’t know what it would be like to go without food like that.”

Even the reserves for the food shelf are dangerously low, normally this pallet and another would be completely full of food.

The St. James donation is just the start of the Union Gospel Mission’s March food drive. Jim Bogie is hoping that he will see the rest of the community step up like the school did and refill the nearly empty shelves. All donations received during the food drive, including St. James’s, are matched by organizations such as Hunger Solutions of Minnesota. Until the Food Drive officially kicks off, Bogie is using what is left of the St. James donation, which his now up to 620 pounds of food, and waiting for the rest of the community to help refill his barren shelves.

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