A sizeable donation from district educators will help feed Harrison's hungry this spring.
The Harrison Association of Teachers donated $4,000 to the Harrison Food Pantry last week at a town board meeting. The money comes from union dues and optional donations straight from the pockets of teachers in the district.
"These are children right here in our classrooms, or pre-schoolers who need the food, need the nutrition," said Angela Ader, public relations chairperson for the Harrison Association of Teachers. "We felt it was really important to help them out."
Twice as many members of the Harrison community have needed help putting food on their tables this year compared to last year. In total, there are 83 Harrison children who's families have relied on the Harrison Food Pantry at one time or another this year, said Ader.
"The perception is: 'Harrison has a food pantry?'," said Harrison Director of Community Services Nina Marraccini. "We do have people that need stuff."
As the need for food has grown, likely a result of the ongoing economic recession, so has help from the community. When the Harrison Association of Teachers heard about the growing need for food this year they doubled their donation from last year, said Ader.
"We need people to help us," said Marraccini. "Fortunately, people in this town are extremely giving when they know there is a need."
The donation comes at a critical time for the food bank. Donations to charitable groups always spike upward during the holiday season, but contribution "falls off a cliff" once the calendar turns to January and February, said Marraccini.
Both sides hope that the large donation raises public awareness of a growing issue in Harrison. There are several families who have lost income over the past year due to layoffs or pay decreases, creating a monetary void that sometimes cannot be overcome without some type of assistance.
"We hear people say, 'I never thought I would be on this end'," said Marraccini. "It's a whole new dynamic."
The money, which Marraccini said will all go toward food, will help stock the pantry's shelves through the spring. But it will not last much longer than that.
"Four thousand dollars is a tremendous amount of money," said Marraccini. "But we are going to go through that just because of the volume that we have."
In an ongoing effort to battle hunger, Ader said that Harrison teachers hold monthly food collections in each of the district's six schools. Last month the district collected 400 pounds of non-perishable food items.
Last week's donation was just one of several programs aiming to help out students in need outside of the classroom. Ader said that teachers in the district also fund scholarships and provide some students with school supplies every September.
"We feel we want to work hand-in-hand with the community," said Ader. "Many of our teachers live in Harrison. If not, we definitely teach the children of Harrison, and we want to help out any way we can."