Immaculate food drive helps those in need

DANBURY—Celebrating Catholic Schools Week, Immaculate High School in Danbury held a week-long food drive for the FAITH Food Pantry in Newtown.

“I’ve always wanted to do a fundraiser through my school,” said Sophia Pertoso, a junior at Immaculate High School who organized the food drive.

A collection bin was set up in the school and one bin was stationed outside the school for any virtual students who wanted to drop off food items.

Pertoso, who also volunteers to make sandwiches for Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury and visits a nursing home near her school to spend time with residents bringing home-baked cookies and good conversation to brighten their day, chose FAITH pantry to help people in her hometown.

“We really, really appreciate what Sophia did,” said Lee Paulsen, president of FAITH Food Pantry, adding that the demand for food and household items has doubled since the pandemic.

FAITH food pantry established in 1984, provides one week of groceries to Newtown residents in need, once a month. The letters in the nonprofit volunteer organization’s name stands for Food Assistance, Immediate, Temporary Help.

“We need all the help we can get,” Paulsen said. “There are so many people in need right now.”

Although the pantry continues to get donations of fresh eggs and milk from local restaurants, donations for basic items are down due in part to the lack of contributions from school food drives since many public schools have been closed or partially closed due to the pandemic.

After contacting the pantry, Pertoso discovered donations are not as plentiful after the holidays but the need for items is still there. Her fellow classmates did not let her down.

“It was an overwhelming amount of donations,” she said. “The food pantry was over the moon excited. I don’t think they expected to get as much as they did.”

In fact, after the food drive was over, students continued to bring much needed items such as apple or cranberry juice, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, pancake mix, salt, pepper, taco kits and napkins.

Pertoso, a virtual student due to the pandemic, was planning to make a second trip to pick-up donations at the school and drop them off to the pantry.

“That’s the good thing about my school, everyone is very giving,” said Pertoso, who organized the food drive with school officials through zoom meetings.

“I admire young people like Sophia that think outside of the box, ‘Gee, maybe I can help somebody,’ well she did and I appreciate it,” Paulsen said. “What she did was terrific.”

“I want to help as much as I can,” Pertoso said. “You never know what people are going through. Maybe that chocolate chip cookie will make someone smile. The little things matter.”