Project 300, the annual food drive which recently completed its 44th year at the McCarthy Middle School, collected 16,961 non-perishable food items between Nov. 16-23, to benefit the Salvation Army of Lowell over Thanksgiving and the holidays.
The non-perishables were dropped at the McCarthy School and collected each day by the Salvation Army. On Friday, Nov. 20, Project 300 brought in 8,000 non-perishable items alone.
The effort is especially remarkable considering the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has McCarthy students attending classes in person just two days a week. It caused Tom Gallagher, a mathematics teacher in his 14th year with Project 300, to adjust the goal from recent, more fruitful years.
“When we announced the final number (16,961) to the kids, they were ecstatic,” said Mr. Gallagher. “Halfway through the week, people said the goal (15,000 items) was too high, that it wasn’t attainable. It’s a tribute to the kids, their parents, the faculty and the community members who were involved, whether they brought in one item or whether they dined at either Brickhouse Pizza.”
Brickhouse Pizza of North Chelmsford and Chelmsford Center, owned by Mike Brown and Charlie Micol, donated 50 percent of their dine-in, take-out and delivery food orders on Thursday, Nov. 19. Gallagher noted their contributions were significant.
“With restaurants down 20 percent because of the covid-19 pandemic, they still donated 50 percent of their sales like they have every year,” Mr. Gallagher said. “Their donation put us over the top.”
Dianne James, Social Services Coordinator of the Salvation Army of Lowell, estimated the 2020 Project 300 donation will provide more than 10,500 individual meals. “We are using a lot of that food right now,” Ms. James said. “The bulk of it is going to families who are sick with covid-19.”
Ms. James also noted that the annual Project 300 contribution is among the largest the Salvation Army receives each year, feeding their clientele well past the holidays. The pandemic, however, has understandably resulted in higher demand.
This year’s effort was also spurred by the McCarthy Middle School PTO, which donated $500 and a “trunkful of non-perishables,” said Theresa Evans, President of the PTO.
“It definitely had a different feel this year,” said Mr. Gallagher. “But it was the resiliency of the kids and the people involved who found a way to make it work.”