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The season of giving

Solon sixth graders collect 459 pounds of food for pantry
Nate Spengler, Mia Stahle and Rena Spengler unpack tubs and boxes used to tote donated non-perishable food items to the Solon Food Pantry Friday, Dec. 21, after a food drive by the sixth grade classes at Solon Middle School. Classrooms which collected at least 25 canned items qualified for a semester-ending dodgeball tournament. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– Solon’s sixth graders are making a difference.
Nate Spengler and Mia Stahle, students in Kearce Lindner’s sixth grade class at Solon Middle School, wanted to create their own foundation (the Solon Spork Foundation) and do some good with it.
“We felt it was the season of giving, and we decided, what can we do to give back?” Spengler said. “We just wanted to do something small for the community.”
The two settled on a fundraiser to benefit the Solon Food Pantry and consulted their teacher.
“We didn’t specifically talk about a service project, but I am always encouraging the kids to think about what they can do to keep things positive and build others up,” Lindner said. “We refer to it as ‘living our best lives’ in my room.”
Lindner was concerned since the middle school had just conducted a “No Shave November” contest in support of the pantry and students were closing in on the winter semester break.
“I suggested they focus in on making this a sixth grade endeavor,” Lindner said. “I also encouraged them to think about some sort of incentive that would motivate people to bring cans in. I knew that dodgeball had always been a favorite activity, so I suggested that. They agreed and we hammered out some of the fine print details.”
Dodgeball can be an inspiring thing.
“We spread the news around our grade and it just kinda spread like wildfire,” Spengler said.
In order to participate in the dodgeball tournament, each sixth grade class class had to collect 25 canned good items.
“We also encouraged classes to bring more by announcing that the class that brought the most would get to decide the bracket for the tournament- which classes would play each other,” Lindner added. “I think this was the main reason we got such a hefty donation.”
The idea was decided on Monday, Dec. 11, and an email announcing the competition was sent out the next day, with the contest starting Wednesday, Dec. 13, and ending Thursday, Dec. 21.
Boxes were placed in each sixth grade teacher’s room and students were asked to bring non-perishable items to their classrooms by the deadline. The canned goods were counted twice- once to check for expiration dates and once to tally the numbers to decide the winner.
“The kids did all the counting,” Lindner said.
Each class brought in more than enough food to qualify for the dodge ball tournament, she reported.
“The winning class was Samantha Kaplan’s, with 126 canned items, so they got to decide the bracket, but lost in the first round of the tournament,” she said. Lindner’s class brought in 117, which was good for second place. Amy Becicka’s class won the dodgeball tournament, which was held Friday, Dec. 22., before the students left for winter break.
The collected food was later taken to the pantry, located in the basement of the Solon United Methodist Church, where it was weighed– a total of 459 pounds of mostly canned goods.
The pantry, in operation since June of 2012, is open for distribution from 2-6 p.m. on Mondays. Donations are accepted Mondays from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
“Throughout this whole experience, I was so impressed by the dedication shown by Nate and Mia,” Lindner said. “They really worked hard to make this dream become a reality and saw it through to the end. I would consider the whole endeavor really successful, and look forward to the next difference the sixth graders at Solon are looking to make.”
Spengler offered his advice for people: “Whatever you set to do, if it’s little or big, even if it’s gigantic,” he said. “You gotta do something.”