Thanksgiving celebrations often focus on food, but even before the holiday, 11-year-old Thomas Newell was keeping other students from going hungry.
Thomas, a sixth-grader at Stallings Island Middle School, recently reached out to help feed students he’s never even met.
“I know that if I didn’t get to eat, I would not be able to focus in school,” he said.
Last spring, Thomas found out that students at the Columbia County Alternative School were in need of food after his mother came back from Bible study.
Women in the class collected breakfast items for the school, but Thomas still wanted to help. After this school year started, he gathered pretzel sticks and peanut butter, granola bars, fruit cups and juice – the same snacks he likes – and placed them in bags for alternative school students.
“It really made a difference,” said Heather Hummel, a family facilitator at the alternative school. “They were like, ‘Wow, another kid our age did this.’”
Hummel is in the same Bible study class at North Augusta’s Grace United Methodist Church as Thomas’ mother, Mary Chris Newell. Hummel had told the class about the school’s need.
The lunches were passed out as rewards to students who had met their goals for the week, Hummel said.
Thomas later followed through with his project by packing breakfast bags to pass out at the school, which doesn’t offer a breakfast program.
This time he packed bags with milk boxes, cereal, granola bars and fruit, complete with a napkin and spoon.
“We’ve been using those for kids that are coming in hungry,” Hummel said. “We were just super impressed that not only is he a sixth-grader, but the fact that he just knows there’s a need, and he is just motivated to do what he can to help these kids.”
Newell said she and husband, John, have raised their children to give to those less fortunate.
During her husband’s mission trips to Honduras, he and others in the group feed hungry children.
When he returned from his first trip, it was too cold for a lemonade stand but Thomas and his older sister, McPherson, set up a hot chocolate stand and raised $30 for their father to take with him back to the Central American country.
This past summer, Thomas and his vacation Bible school classmates passed out sack lunches and taught Bible study lessons to children in an area neighborhood, Newell said.
Thomas, a Boy Scout, also recently went to a North Augusta nursing home to read to residents. Following in his sister’s footsteps, Thomas has filled bags with hygiene products for a Scout project.
“He has a servant’s heart,” Newell said. “He’s good at leading in a nice, quiet way without being bossy.
“It makes me very proud that he’s aware of needs around him right here.”
Thomas said he hopes to get approval of a Life Scout service project to create more food bags for the alternative school.
“I would get a few other Scouts to help me,” he said, “so we could make a lot.”