MUHS raises $3K, two tons of food for HOPE

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Union High School students have battled in two competitions this winter in which everybody has come out a winner — particularly the community’s hungriest and most impoverished citizens.
The competitions, both part of the annual MUHS Winter Carnival, included a “penny war” that raised more than $3,100 and a food drive that yielded a record 4,500 pounds of groceries. The competitions yielded bragging rights for competing classes, but most importantly, produced much-needed resources for the anti-poverty agency Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) and its clients.
“We think their efforts are stupendous,” HOPE Executive Director Jeanne Montross said of the MUHS students. “This was a wonderful surprise and is very, very helpful to our efforts.”
Winter Carnival at MUHS includes a series of competitive events through which different grades can accumulate points for ultimate bragging rights at the school.
This was the second consecutive year the carnival featured a penny war. The rules of the “war” are simple: Each grade gets a container in which to receive cash donations. Each contributed penny counts as a positive point for the grade. At the same time, supporters of a particular grade can harpoon other grades’ chances by placing higher denomination coins or paper money in their containers. For example, a ninth-grade supporter could put a quarter in the 11th-grade container, which would deduct 25 points from the 11th grade team.
The pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and folding money flew fast and furious during the four-day war between the four high school grades. The most heated rivalry involved this year’s sophomores and seniors, noted Sean Farrell, MUHS activities director. That’s because last year’s freshman class won the 2010 Winter Carnival, and the seniors didn’t want to see them repeat this year.
Organizers, including senior class President Will Earle, estimate that the dueling classes dumped more than $1,000 in the collection jugs on the final day of the competition alone.
“During 5 minutes of one of the (school) lunch hours, more than $100 came in,” noted Earle, who helped supervise the penny war.
“It was crazy; we were shocked at the amount of student involvement.”
The final take — $3,147 — was more than twice what the school raised in its inaugural penny war last year, when the beneficiary was the Haiti earthquake relief effort.
As predicted, the sophomores and seniors raised the most money. The freshman class flew under the radar and ended up having the most positive points at the end of the competition.
“The seniors and sophomores were going after each other so much, they forgot about the 9th graders,” Farrell said.
The senior class won the overall Winter Carnival based on cumulative points from all the events. But the overall winner was the Middlebury-area community that will now have more resources to help those who are having a hard time making ends meet this winter.
Student Senate President Angela Brisson noted that the winning grade was given the option of earmarking $1,000 toward a class activity, such as Project Graduation. But the student body elected to have all of the proceeds benefit HOPE.
“We’d rather help the community than have that extra $1,000 for Project Graduation,” Brisson said.
She added the Winter Carnival “speaks to how school activities can bring the community together.”
Montross said the donated money will go into HOPE’s poverty relief services fund, which helps pay for emergency heating, housing and food for eligible county residents.
While some students focused on fighting the “penny war,” the student body also generously contributed more than two tons of food. Doc Seubert’s MUHS home room class alone donated 840 items to the food drive, winning a competition among the home rooms.
Montross said the 4,500 pounds of food raised by MUHS this year will be put to good use.
“The food drives are a tremendous help to us,” she said. “Right now, food has been going out faster than it comes in.”
MUHS Principal William Lawson is very proud of his students. The penny drive is but one humanitarian gesture exhibited by the MUHS student body this year, he noted. Last month, around 80 students dressed in identical colors to take part a photograph in support of the Mount Mansfield Union High School community in wake of the suicide death of student Connor Menning.
“We have a really great group of students, and community service is really important to them,” Lawson said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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