Dan Gill has made giving a habit.

He encourages his daughter, Mackenzie, to think of others, too.

Mackenzie was among students at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School in Seymour who recently helped collect 1,150 items for the food pantry at Anchor House, a homeless shelter in Seymour.

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They did that in less than two weeks.

“I really was surprised,” Gill said of the number of items collected. “It makes you feel good that a lot of kids got to see what it’s like to give rather than receive, and that’s what this season is all about.”

Mackenzie said it was fun going to the store with her father to buy food for the drive. The first-grader said it’s nice to be able to help less-fortunate people.

“It’s pretty neat,” she said. “It’s good because you’re being kind, and you’re doing what God’s telling you to do.”

Gill came up with the idea for the school’s parent-teacher organization to lead the drive, and boxes were left with each of the teachers.

On Dec. 17, Gill and fellow PTO members Mandy Peters and Cheyenne Tedrow went around the school and collected the boxes full of food. They tallied the items by classroom, and the winning class won a pizza party. Leading the way was Whitney Reinhart’s first-grade class, which brought in 175 items.

In second place was Dietra Bean’s second-grade class with 155, and third was Beth Russell’s first-grade class with 145.

“We didn’t know how it would go, especially this time of year, so I think we were happy with it. The top three classes really came through,” Peters said.

“Some of them are using the food banks, so maybe to see their friends bring in food, maybe they realize that people care,” she added. “They saw that their friends are helping out to fill that food bank.”

Gill was impressed with the students’ work, too.

“We feel like they did an outstanding job,” he said. “It just gives the school recognition plus gives back to the community.”

Tedrow said it’s good for elementary-age kids to learn about giving back.

“I think some kids don’t even realize that other people need food,” she said. “They always have (food), so I think it gave them an opportunity to see that they need to give things to the less fortunate.”

Anchor House representative Eileen Stinson visited the school Dec. 18 to thank the students, and then she hauled the items back to the shelter at 250 S. Vine St.

“It is a great thing to see that kids will be able to give back to their community in this small way,” Stinson said. “It definitely helps the food pantry because we have seen an increase in clients coming in, especially over the holidays.”

The food pantry is open twice a week, and Stinson said it is serving more than 60 families each day.

“When we got food drives through the holidays, it used to get us through probably about June. Now, it’s getting us maybe through February,” she said.

So the school’s donation is very much appreciated, she added.

“I know that this area is served by our food pantry quite a bit, so it is nice to see that they are helping their neighbors,” she said.

This was the first time for the PTO to lead a food drive, and organizers hope to make it a tradition.

“I feel like we did a great job,” Tedrow said. “I don’t see any reason why we should not do it next year.”

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.