By Caroline White, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Last month, the fourth grade students at Mill Pond School in Westborough came together for a special dinner with their families to celebrate a long and successful food and toiletry drive. Over the fall months, the students had collected a whopping 3,800 pounds of food and goods for the Westborough Food Pantry.
The initiative was started 13 years ago by fourth grade teacher Sheila Labriola, who has been organizing it every year since then.
The students had also adopted a row of vegetables at the Community Harvest Farm in Grafton.
“We started the food drive locally for our own Westborough Food Pantry, and then the farm itself is for the county. We get pounds and pounds of vegetables,” said fourth grade teacher Sheila Labriola.
“I just felt that there was a need for our kids to be cognizant of other people in our county who were really struggling to have food,” she explained.
Mill Pond Principal Peter Guellnitz challenged the students to bring in more food than any other year, promising that if they did, he would sleep on the plaza in front of the school in a tent. They did so he did.
“The generosity of the community has been amazing so I just thought the least I can do is sleep outside for a night and have some fun with it,” he said.
Vice Principal Jeff Slomski added to the fun by promising the kids that if they reached their all-time goal of 3,800 pounds of food, he would let all of the fourth graders pour tomato sauce on him at the end of the dinner.
The annual Come Together Dinner is a favorite event of students and faculty alike. It is especially important as Mill Pond brings together students from three different elementary schools, and this dinner provides a chance for parents and students to meet and spend time with each other.
“The three schools, Fales, Armstrong, and Hastings come together [to Mill Pond]. That was my idea, that Mill Pond is a big transition for these kids,” Labriola said.
“It’s a nice chance for the kids and the families to get together and share a meal and celebrate coming together for the first time,” Slomski added.
With donations from Arturo’s, Bertucci’s, Westborough House of Pizza, and Panera, the Mill Pond cafeteria is transformed into a “mini Italian restaurant,” as Labriola said, for the dinner.
As this event has become a favorite among students, other grades have joined in on the food drive.
“It started with the fourth grade but then everyone wanted to join in. My fourth graders went to fifth grade and they wanted to be a part of the food drive and so on and so forth,” Labriola said.