The two juniors set up a GoFundMe page to support the food pantry at the high school and is part of the M-EALS and Leadership non-profit. Starting with an original goal of $500, at last check, the page has seen over $1,190 in donations, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the non-profit. “Our grandmom had said, ‘you should help out a charity or something,” said Kaczynski. “I cried,” Murat said. “To be able to think outside of yourself when it’s your 16th, 17th, 18th birthday, I think is pretty impressive.” ENDWELL (WBNG) – Juniors at Maine-Endwell Senior High School Sadie Kacyznski and Lexi Vallet wanted to do something different for their birthdays. “The amount we’ve gotten from it has been actually surprising,” Vallet said. “We kind of set it up hoping some friends and families would chip in. Then it took off like it did.” “Most times when you walk inside the food pantry, it’s fully stocked,” Murat said. “The pantry is literally bare.” When she heard the news, she broke into tears. Vallet told 12 News the duo plans to keep the page up and running through her birthday on May 10, and that if there are still donations flowing they will run it through the end of May. For good measure, Kaczynski left a message with everyone on her birthday on how they can help. Rachel Murat is a teacher at M-E, and is the founder and president of the non-profit which seeks to assist families in the area with food needs for children in the M-E Central School District. So knowing the state of the pantry, and the importance of the gesture, Murat was thankful the money can go directly back to helping other Spartans in need. Murat told 12 News the coronavirus’ impact on the food pantry has been so significant she estimated she had only four jars of peanut butter left. “Just go for it. Just start a GoFundMe. What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t raise as much as you though you would? It’s still something to somebody,” Kaczynski said. Celebrating their big days in quarantine due to schools, restaurants and other businesses being closed due COVID-19 concerns, the two friends, who are actually cousins, got creative. “This money is not only going to help us get through the week to week deliveries until we can get back to school, but it will also help me restock the pantry,” Murat said.
“Teachers will let us know who they haven’t heard from, what students haven’t been signing in or checking in, and we’ve been going above and beyond trying to do that along with our administrators making sure someone heard from those folks,” said Ruhm. “We’re isolated and I think not feeling isolated is really important,” said Ruhm. Ruhm says some of her students feel more comfortable talking through video chat about their concerns. However, she says it’s been a challenge with some other students who may feel a little less comfortable speaking through video chat while at home. School counselors across many districts say they have been adjusting to the recent changes and have been making sure students know they are there for them. So, she makes sure she does the small things like send them emails to let them know she is there for them with the resources they need. For more information on resources for families and children, click here. Therefore, Ruhm and her colleagues went above and beyond for their students. Not only making sure kids have access to Zoom, but also doing things like sending birthday cards and letters. In addition, they pay close attention to students who may need some extra help. (WBNG) — While students are home from school for the rest of the academic year, school counselors say it’s important now more than ever to make sure kids have resources they need. For Rhonda Ruhm, a school counselor in the Vestal School District and Tioga Hills Elementary, she says she wanted to make sure her students didn’t feel alone.
The goal is to provide families with not just food, but fresh, healthy items to take home to their families. OWEGO (WBNG) — Tioga County Rural Ministry held their annual August Free Food Giveaway at their headquarters in Owego on Saturday. She said ministry normally chooses August because families have a higher need for food with children out of school for the summer. “They’ve never done this before, many are embarrassed,” O’Brien said. “There’s no embarrassment to this. In this climate that we’re in right now, we all need one another and if we can help one another that’s what we’re about as a community.” This year she says the coronavirus pandemic added a new layer with many families finding themselves in need for the first time. Sister Mary O’Brien calls the event a “win-win” for local families and farmers because the ministry uses grant money to buy fresh food directly from local farms which they then give away to families and individuals in need. Farms and providers that participated included Mandeville Farm in Spencer, Joe Rowland Honey in Owego, T. Babcock Honey in Nichols, Hillberry Farm in Berkshire, Stoughton Farm in Newark Valley, Engelbert Farm in Nichols, Hamley’s Maple in Barton and John’s Fine Foods in Owego.
Even though it’s not the normal fair Tioga County residents are used to, families are still having fun. The drive-thru will continue Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. OWEGO (WBNG) — Today was the first day of the fair food drive-thru feast at the Tioga County Fairgrounds. All COVID-19 protocols were in place. “It’s actually better than the fair,” Judy Nichols, Tioga County resident, said. “You don’t have to plow your way through, just sit here and drive.” Stands were set up with fair favorites including nachos, fried dough, and turkey legs. Customers were given menus to select from, their orders were taken and they picked their food up along the way.