County kids lend hands to FISH Food Bank

The FISH Food Bank got a helping hand on Thursday — actually, many helping hands. Five 8th grade girls from Hood River Middle School who organized last month’s Hands Across the Gorge event, in which 200 middle school students from around the Gorge linked hands across the Bridge of the Gods to raise awareness about hunger, spent the afternoon at the food bank helping pack food bags.

But before they started, the girls handed over to FISH organizers an envelope containing $3,462.68. The money is part of nearly $5,000 students from Hood River Middle School, Wy’east Middle School, Cascade Locks School and Wind River Middle School in Stevenson raised in donations connected to the Hands Across the Gorge event. The remaining money will be divided between the Cascade Locks Food Bank, a food bank in Skamania County and the Hood River Christmas Project, which gives holiday food baskets to needy families.

“We are very blessed,” said Irene Best, Fish Food Bank coordinator.

Katie McMasters, one of the 8th grade organizers of the project, said she and the other girls had not expected to raise so much money for the food banks.

“In the beginning, we thought we were going to raise about $2,000,” she said. “Then it just expanded.”

The girls — which, along with McMasters, included Sierra Geddis, Justine Campbell, Dani Lichty and Julie Hazlett — spearheaded the project as part of teacher Jack Sprague’s Making a Difference class. They organized every aspect of the project, from coordinating the 200 students who joined hands on the Bridge of the Gods near Cascade Locks on Oct. 24 in a symbolic connection to the needy to seeking donations for the area food banks.

“The girls did everything,” Sprague said.

With Thursday’s cash infusion, and local generosity, the FISH Food Bank is well stocked for the holiday season, according to Best.

“We’re in wonderful shape,” she said. “We couldn’t be better. Thanks to the community, something comes in almost every day.”

McMasters and her fellow project organizers will graduate from middle school at the end of this school year and head to high school. But they hope to continue what they started this year with Hands Across the Gorge.

“We want to make this a yearly thing,” McMasters said.

The FISH Food Bank is open for distribution Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. It is located in Concordia Lutheran Church at 11th and Pine streets in the Heights.

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