Editor's note: To welcome the new year, and to show the good and promise that we can expect from upcoming generations, Connecticut Family magazine has launched a yearlong feature which highlights the leadership and inspiring activities of area young people.
This series recognizes the community builders of tomorrow: – students who see an outstanding need and work to meet it; who mentor and nurture others; who show leadership in inclusion, compassion, and advocacy; and who work diligently (and often quietly) to further a cherished cause. Each day, and all around us, young people are motivated and working to better this world: to help, to heal, to share, to acknowledge, to grow.
In collaboration with Dominion Energy – Millstone, New London county educators are asked to nominate young people deserving of recognition. The first three profiles appear in this issue; we look forward to publishing many more.
If you know a young person making a difference in our world, please (with parent or guardian permission) send a brief write-up detailing their accomplishments, school, grade and contact information to Managing Editor Faye Parenteau, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions are welcome at 860-701-4375.
Hannah Hallisey is a Grade 5 student at Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School in New London. In nominating Hannah for recognition, Principal Michele Han emphasized that Hannah is “not only an outstanding student and a great role model to her classmates, she also goes above and beyond to help others in the community.”
Every year as the holidays approach, Hannah holds a food drive to collect donations for the Gemma E Moran Food Center. The amazing thing about this is that she started when she was five years old! This bright young lady does a good job of telling her story.
CF: Tell us about your project.
HH: “I’ve been doing this food drive for about six years. I started after Hurricane Sandy because me and my mom were watching the news and we saw all the houses that were destroyed. I told my mom I wanted to give something to them and she said, ‘What, like food?’ And I said yes. And then she asked me what kind of food and I said yogurt.” [A giggle.] “Then I said we could do cans and so we started. My mom posted on Facebook and then people would start dropping them off at my house.”
CF: Was it a success?
HH: “My first year, I got 207 pounds of food; then I got 776 pounds last year; and 791 pounds this year.”
CF: And then what do you do with it?
HH: “It goes to the Gemma E. Moran Food Center in New London.”
CF: How much work do you have to do?
HH: “I start in about the middle of November, like around Thanksgiving. Sometimes I’m at school, but people still drop off the food on our front porch and take a picture of themselves with the food. But if I’m home, they come inside and we take a picture of them and the food.”
CF: Why did you start this big project?
HH: “Because the hurricane damage was so bad, I wanted to help.”
CF: How does all this make you feel?
HH: [Big smile.] “It makes me feel really happy because I want to help people. And I’m a kind person. And my little sister Emmy basically followed in my footsteps and did a stuffed animal drive after the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Texas. She donated 159 stuffed animals to the Welcome Center for New London Schools.”
CF: What are your plans for the future? Is anyone else involved in the project?
HH: “My goal this year was 1000 pounds. My grandma has a little box at her apartment complex and she collects there. And my mom’s sister collects at her work, and sometimes my Dad collects at his work.”
Hannah’s mother, Katie Hallisey, is touched by her daughter’s generosity. “It makes me feel very proud because, as parents, you try to teach your children a lot of things,” she says. “But if they can pick up on being kind to others and giving back, then I think you’ve done a really good job.”
The Gemma E. Moran Food Center works to eliminate hunger. Last year, the center distributed the equivalent of 1.9 million meals and snacks to more than 80 food pantries, shelters, child care centers, community meal sites, and programs for the elderly. For more information or to help, visit uwsect.org/food-center.