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Quakertown High School junior inspires food drive

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Not your typical 17-year-old, Mason Smith has accomplished quite a bit in his young life. He’s a black belt in karate, earned his Eagle Scout rank with Boy Scout Troop 87, and is a junior councilman with Quakertown Borough.
 
Recently, the Quakertown Community High School junior was thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic and his legacy. “What will I be able to tell my grandchildren about what I did” during these unusual times?” he said in an interview.
 
Seeking to contribute to the community in a significant way, Smith aspired to help feed families facing financial hardship as unemployment has skyrocketed. His idea is similar to his Eagle Scout Project: a food drive for the Quakertown Food Pantry. His efforts have been joined by several municipalities.
 
The food drive is scheduled for Saturday, May 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Food may be dropped off at Quakertown Borough Hall, Richland Township Police Department, Milford Township Building, Richlandtown Borough Benner Hall and Haycock Township Community Center.
 
All donations of nonperishable food are greatly appreciated. At this time the greatest needs include:
• Canned fish and meats: chicken, tuna, spam, ham
• Canned complete meals: chili, beef stew, pasta meals (ravioli, Spaghetti O’s, etc.)
• Vegetables, especially green vegetables
• Canned fruit
• Canned spaghetti sauce (no glass, please)
 
When he got the idea for the food drive, Smith approached Scott McElree, Quakertown’s Borough manager and police chief. He suggested Smith approach Quakertown Food Pantry to find out how significant their needs are.
 
“He did the research and found the demand is there,” McElree said. “This is really important for the Quakertown Community School District community to get behind this.”
 
Sally Lindemuth, the pantry’s food drive coordinator, said there was a 40% increase in the number of new families the organization served in March. More than 2,500 individuals used the pantry during the months of March and April, she said. “The need is definitely there,” she added. “We expect the greater influx is yet to come.”
 
Smith, an aspiring Marine, said the necessity of the food drive couldn’t be more clear with the number of first-time families flooding the pantry. “People are living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “What if they’ve lost their job? How are people getting food? How are people eating? I just want to help.”
 
Lindemuth praised Smith for not only taking the initiative but following through on the plan. “Many people have great ideas, but never bring them to fruition,” she said. “Mason has the great thoughts and the follow-through to make it become a reality. A characteristic few people of any age possess.”
Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner described Smith as “a selfless young man, who has shown a commitment and urgency to help the neediest in our community. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
 
McElree used the words “astonishing, mature and focused” to describe Smith. “I see him in a leadership role as he forges ahead to make a difference,” he said. “One day he’ll be on the ballot running for the White House.”
 
Gary Weckselblatt is director of communications for Quakertown Community School District.

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