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Stories from the Road – Volunteer Appreciation Edition – Hermon High School

Our school partners are vital community resource hubs where families feel welcomed, supported, and safe. One Good Shepherd Food Bank network partner is Hermon High School in Hermon, Maine. While the school serves as a place of learning and growth for students, it’s also a place for community support and service. Andy Sumner, the school’s Life Skills program facilitator, had a vision to add a school pantry program that supports families in the district.

The Life Skills program at Hermon High School isn’t just about academics; it’s about equipping students with essential life skills that will help them thrive academically and personally and have them responsible for supporting the community around them. Through activities like volunteering at Good Shepherd Food Bank’s distribution center in Hampden, Maine, students like Thomas, Zayne, and Jamin are gaining valuable vocational skills and experiencing the joy of giving back.

These students lend a hand at the Food Bank, packing commodity boxes with infectious enthusiasm every Friday. Their commitment and passion have left a lasting impression on the Food Bank staff, who await their weekly visits.

“The entire warehouse team is always so excited to see our volunteers from Hermon High School. They really bring a lot of joy and excitement every Friday,” stated Gina Bingham, Good Shepherd Food Bank’s volunteer engagement coordinator. Zayne shared with a huge smile, “I love it!” referring to volunteering at the Food Bank and spending time with Food Bankers every Friday. Jamin shared that he likes seeing the Food Bank equipment in action, like the forklifts and the food conveyor.

Inspired by the impact of their volunteer work, Andy Sumner took the initiative to establish a school food pantry within the walls of Hermon High School. What started as a small endeavor has grown into helping over 25 families weekly, thanks to the collective efforts of students, staff, and community members. Andy said, “Volunteering weekly at the food bank made me realize that we could do this right at school and help the students and families in our district. Our students enjoy filling the boxes and organizing. It’s been an awesome adventure that has grown into a whole school project.”

The pantry provides essential food items for families in the district and serves as a valuable learning experience for students. Under Andy’s guidance and with the help of dedicated staff members like Dan Switzer and Hazel Chick and substitute teacher Elizabeth Welch, students like Vanessa are learning the importance of teamwork, organization, and compassion.

Vanessa, a sophomore in the program, eagerly anticipates her role in volunteering at the Food Bank next year, ready to follow in the footsteps of her peers and make a difference in her community. For her, the highlight of the experience is not just the act of service but also the camaraderie and friendship shared with her fellow students. “My favorite part is spending time with my friends. I can’t wait to volunteer at the Food Bank next year,” shared Vanessa.

In addition to providing food assistance, the school pantry also ensures that students have access to hygiene and feminine products, recognizing the importance of meeting their basic needs. Andy and his team work hard to ensure that every family receives the support they require, even with limited resources and storage space.

Through their involvement with the Good Shepherd Food Bank and the school pantry, students at Hermon High School are not just learning about service; they’re embodying it. “I love seeing the students work together, take what they learn at the Food Bank and bring it back to the classroom. The way we organize our boxes and the systems we use come from the great examples at the Food Bank. The students are learning that compassion knows no bounds and that even the smallest acts of kindness can profoundly impact those in need.” As Andy puts it, “We try to help people get what they need,” and in doing so, they’re working toward our mission to end hunger in Maine and theirs, “to prepare students for personal success in college, career, and community.”

With our partner agencies spread throughout the entire state, there will likely be help nearby if you need food. If you’re looking for help or interested in donating food or volunteering at your local food pantry, please visit our Food Map to find a pantry near you.

Good Shepherd Food Bank works in partnership with nearly 600 hunger-relief organizations, located from Kittery to Fort Kent, to help distribute food to community members in need. Our network of partner agencies includes food pantries, meal sites, senior centers, school programs, and healthcare facilities.