St. Margaret’s School first-grader Cooper Baldes (left) and third-grader Maura Arbogast have teamed up to organize a food drive and socks and mittens collection to donate to those in need. Photo by Sarah Elmquist Squires.

By: Sarah Elmquist Squires
Managing Editor

First a princess, then a queen, every day, before she ate breakfast herself, she devoted herself to charity — feeding orphans and the poor. She rose at midnight each night to attend liturgy, she read the Bible to her illiterate husband, King Malcolm III. Her faith was intimately bound with every action she took; this queen even gently washed the feet of the poor in homage to Christ Himself. The princess, turned Queen Margaret, was eventually canonized, and is known today as Saint Margaret of Scotland.

This was the story that Maura Arbogast, third grader at St. Margaret’s School, was studying for All Saint’s Day. She was struck by the selflessness of the saint, the thought of a queen so devoted to those less fortunate. “I thought, ‘That’s a great idea,'” Arbogast explained of the food drive that Saint Margaret’s charity inspired.

First-grader Cooper Baldes had organized a food drive the year before, so it was natural that the two partnered to plan the special project underway at St. Margaret’s.

Baldes explained: “One day I was kind of bored and I thought to myself, ‘I should just do a food drive.'” The then-kindergartner grabbed a big box and began loading it with nonperishable items from his kitchen. “My mom was like, ‘What are you doing?'” Baldes recounted. “I told her ‘I’m doing a food drive.'”

Arbogast and Baldes quickly got to work on this year’s project. Last week, they collected nonperishable fruits and vegetables — overflowing bags waiting to be taken to the food pantry at City Hall. This coming week, starting on November 14, they’ll be collecting grains, from pasta to rice and everything in between. On the week starting December 6, the pair will be collecting socks and mittens that will be donated to Angel’s Hope.

Baldes and Arbogast appealed to their classmates with letters explaining their project, and donations started pouring in. In Baldes’ letter, he drew a description of their goal: In one image sat City Hall’s pantry shelves, nearly bare. In the second, they are overflowing with donated food. “I think we’ll have to get a really big box,” he said, since there might not be room on all the pantry shelves for the bounty.

Arbogast explained that her mom is friends with an Angel’s Hope organizer, so she knows that the center is always in need of warm clothes. “We thought we could do that too,” she explained. “We could all piece it together.”

And done it together they have. Although the drive is in its early days, students and families have responded well to the call to action. “Quite a few of them have donated,” Arbogast shared, “and since word got out on technology, lots have come dropping food off.”

Argobast said she imagines the food donations will give a boost to families for Thanksgiving and beyond. “At least, they’ll have a bigger dinner than they would have,” she said.

Anyone can donate — “Anyone in the world,” Baldes exclaimed. The food and clothing items are being collected just outside the school’s office.

It wasn’t just Saint Margaret of Scotland who helped inspire the project. There’s a bit of Saint Nicholas, too, who’s best known for his secret gift-giving. Baldes and Argobast both hope that students, families, and community members will find a bit of the spirit of Saint Nicholas inside, and donate to worthy projects like the one they’ve developed.

Baldes, who just started his first-grade year, has some lofty goals already, but he knows he can get them done. “For all the years that I’m going to be here, I’m going to do at least one food drive,” he said. “At least.”