Mission possible
“We’re on target,” parent-volunteer Sara Vavra shouted. On Nov. 20, Chantilly Montessori families were tasked with making 800 sandwiches for “Operation Sandwich,” an outreach project through the Urban Ministry Center (UMC) in Charlotte. First-, second- and third-graders needed to make six sandwiches each to meet the goal and provide meals to the homeless community.

According to UMC, the day center could serve up to 600 people daily in Mecklenburg County. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 12,000 people are homeless in Mecklenburg County.

Chantilly Assistant Principal Hennie Driggers said the school participates in projects like “Operation Sandwich” to connect the children to the community at-large. This is the fourth year that the school has participated in this project. The students usually take part in “Operation Sandwich” twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring.

“We want our students to develop as the whole person. They should understand that no matter how old they are, they are capable of helping the less fortunate,” said Driggers.

Days leading up to “Operation Sandwich,” the students and their families donated the sandwich ingredients for peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, turkey, egg and chicken salad, along with other items. All remaining foods were donated to the Center.  

“I think it is really important to help people. You have to give food to the homeless shelter. Everyone deserves to have something good to eat,” said second-grader Stella Adams.

UMC Volunteer Coordinator Christine DeLia said, “The sandwiches have made a huge impact on the meals we serve. We only have to worry about serving soup, when volunteers supply the sandwiches. Their generosity is how we are able to help feed our homeless neighbors.”

In classroom groups, the students gathered in assembly-line formation. They used hand sanitizer, then put on plastic gloves and decided which sandwich station(s) they wanted to participate.

Mother Latoya Reddish said, “I think children sometimes forget that they have so much. Around this time of year, especially near Thanksgiving, people need to take a step back and think about all they have to be grateful for. There is something each of us can do to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Mary Caponi, the grandmother of first-grader Graeme McDonald, said it is easy to talk about giving back and wanting to do it. However, it means so much more when you actually give back.

“My grandson is learning about sharing with others and how you have to give of yourself to help people who have less than you. We want to be sure to do our part for the community,” Caponi said.

Christie Adams helped organize the first two events at the school. Her children wanted to give back to their community and she thought it would be a great idea to make it a school-wide effort.

“We have learned that homelessness can happen to anyone. It could one day be us that need some help,” said Adams. “They have to pay attention to how lucky we are.”