In lieu of gifts for her seventh birthday last month, South Valley Elementary School student Samantha Berman asked friends to donate items to First Baptist Church of Moorestown’s food pantry.
“She and I had discussed (for) her birthday party … just doing something a little bit different this year,” said Samantha’s mother Caty. “Maybe asking her friends to, instead of giving her a present, to donate to (a) charity.”
Samantha was excited to ask, considering she helps Caty drop off donations from the elementary school’s Food for All Friday program to the pantry.
“Once a month, we collect donations from families at South Valley, and Sam usually helps when I pick up the donations,” Caty noted. “After we collect, then we bring them over to the food pantry …
“We talk a lot about how there’s a lot of people in the world who have a lot more ‘need’ than we do, and we try to do what we can to help out where we can.”
Caty explained how she and Samantha became more involved with the pantry, specifically during COVID, after connecting with church volunteer Norma Wright.
“ … I ended up actually helping out a little bit with the food pantry that summer (2020), and since then, I’ve been involved sort of on the school side of it,” Caty explained. “Sam helps to get everything there on one Friday a month, and she understands what it’s for and (why) people need it, and she thought for her birthday that she would ask for food pantry donations to help out a little bit more.”
Samantha’s 13-year-old brother Alex will also volunteer at the food pantry once a week this summer.
“He’s had experience doing this sort of thing before,” Caty said, “and so we thought that it would be a good volunteer experience for him this summer.”
Caty said the parent community donates to the food pantry year-round, regardless of what’s going on.
“ … The need has definitely been increasing a lot due to inflation and just everything with the economy,” she noted, “but the South Valley families have been incredibly generous over the last couple of years.”
Among nonperishable items the pantry collects are pasta sauces, cereals, oatmeal and desserts.
“ … They also are always in need of toiletry items and diapers, shampoo and conditioner, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, laundry detergent – just anything that people might need in their house,” Caty said. “People can donate it and it’s helpful, toothbrushes, toothpaste, anything.”
Caty wants her children to learn something valuable from helping those in need, while Samantha hopes her actions inspire others to follow her lead. She plans to ask for donations again on her eighth birthday.
“I want them to be aware of the world outside themselves, and that while we are financially stable and we can put food on our table for every meal, that there are many, many people in the world that cannot,” she said.
“ … I would like them to learn from a young age to give back to their communities.”