Ordway students give a helping hand to Helpline House

Carter, 10, shows off his donation of a can of tuna that he walked all the way from Ordway Elementary School to the Helpline House. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Carter, 10, shows off his donation of a can of tuna that he walked all the way from Ordway Elementary School to the Helpline House.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

The holiday season is not just a time for a vacation, or even presents. It’s also a time for giving.

Students at the Ordway Elementary know this all too well.

The kids from Ordway pounded the pavement with a purpose on Friday, Nov. 9, as each student carried food donations to the island’s Helpline House. The food drive by the students will help feed their fellow islanders over the holidays.

“It’s become such a tradition, the kids remember coming from one year to the next, and they remember what they brought the year before,” said Marilyn Gremse, food bank manager for the Helpline House. “It instills a nice sense of community giving.”

By taking the trip, students learn a little more about their community, beyond the donation box.

“It was trying to make that connection of where our food donations start and where they end up,” said Ordway third-grade teacher Greg Sanman. “It’s not just this box in the hall, the students make the connection that it goes to Helpline House.”

“And then the students, if they need help or their parents need help, they have a place to go,” he added. “There’s a learning that goes on beyond just having a good feeling and giving.”

Approximately 360 Ordway students made the nearly 1-mile trek down Madison Avenue to deliver their donations, along with 60 parents and 25 school staff members.

It wasn’t just a good deed, it was also educational.

“It was part of a math project they were working on,” Sanman explained. “There was one group that was looking at whether the food donations were healthy or unhealthy; there were students that looked at whether the items brought in were canned, in bags, in boxes or jars.”

Other students tallied how many donations were brought in each day of the week.

In the end, the students took their data to create bar graphs.

At least 4,000 pounds of food were dropped off by the Ordway students last week. Still, much more will be needed before the end of the month.

“The food bank really relies on the community to give at this time of year in a broad way, so that people who rely on our food bank to supplement their groceries have a broader range of food to choose from,” Gremse said. “It makes it much more likely that they can have a full, rich occasion for their own Thanksgiving holiday.”

The Helpline House has taken the initiative this year to remodel their food bank for the community. Like many food banks, the charity once simply filled boxes with food items to hand out to the community.

This year, the Helpline House is instituting a grocery store-type system that allows community members to select their own food items.

“They do their own selection of food so nothing goes to waste,” Gremse said. “So if they don’t eat olives, for example, they don’t take olives.”

The Helpline House will continue to take donations over the holiday season, especially turkeys. While the center has limited freezer capacity, they still welcome any turkey donations that islanders can offer.

“We don’t pre-purchase things like turkeys, but we do appreciate turkeys for Thanksgiving week,” Gremse said. “Other food items we are happy to receive anytime. We encourage anyone in the community to stop by.”

The Helpline House has a list of needed food donations on its website at

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