Forest Park students hold food drive for cancer patients

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 9, 2016

 Forest Park Elementary students and their teacher show off some of the goods collected for cancer patients. In the front row are Dakota Campbell and Jeremiah Calhoun, and in the middle row are Autumn Evans, Azari Hering and Zoey Gayle. Second-grade teacher Lauretta Fischer is in the back.

Forest Park Elementary students and their teacher show off some of the goods collected for cancer patients. In the front row are Dakota Campbell and Jeremiah Calhoun, and in the middle row are Autumn Evans, Azari Hering and Zoey Gayle. Second-grade teacher Lauretta Fischer is in the back.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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EASTPOINTE — Over the course of two weeks, the students of an East Detroit school were gathering food and toiletry supplies to help cancer patients in need.

The second-graders at Forest Park Elementary School took some time each school day during the weeks of April 25 and May 2 to gather items brought in by students and their families, second-grade teacher Lauretta Fischer said.

Fischer said that each year the students hold some kind of community service project, such as writing letters for Earth Day and creating informational pieces during flu season. This year, she hit on the idea of helping out the Van Elslander Cancer Center in Grosse Pointe Woods with its food pantry after seeing a flier for it.

“I went back and asked the kids, and said this is one way we could help,” Fischer said. “They loved the idea.”

Van Elslander Oncology Financial Counselor Catherine Patterson said that while going through chemotherapy, patients cannot always work the same schedule they are used to, which can lead to them becoming financially strapped. Their patients are allowed to visit the small food pantry on-site to grab food and toiletries — like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoos and conditioners — once a month as a way to help out.

Fischer said the students had been gathering materials like peanut butter, noodles, macaroni and cheese packages, canned foods, juices, raisins, muffin mixes and toiletries. The students ultimately gathered up 539 items that the teachers planned to take to the cancer center May 6 after school, including a case of shampoo samples and a case of lotion samples.

“Each day when the kids bring the items to school, the second-graders go around and collect them,” she said. “They put them in boxes, check expiration dates, make sure they’re good, and try to keep them alike — veggies in one, noodles in one, toiletries in another.”

The other teachers — Elizabeth Loria, Amber Huling and Arlette Przapiora — were all on board, and the four of them kicked off the food drive with an assembly for students and parents, Fischer said.

Students from a variety of schools have helped out, Patterson said, not just in getting materials for the pantry, but also in making afghans or bringing candy for patients with dry mouths. Cancer center staff members also help raise money for groceries through initiatives like a “jeans day,” she added.

“The patients, they just love it,” Patterson said. “Just to cheer them up, it’s wonderful because they’re going through a rough time and these little things — what we think is little — is big to them.”

Students Mara Felder, Raven McGee and Azari Hering were quoted by Fischer in an email as enjoying the program because it made them feel good and helped the cancer patients in need.

“I think people should donate things to the food pantry for cancer patients,” McGee said.

Fischer said that the students would receive a little certificate thanking them for their efforts after the food drive was over, but she thinks the effort to help out those in need is a nice one.

“It’s cute, the kids are really excited about it, and they’re helping other people at such a young age,” she said. “It’s nice.”

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