One of the most important aspects of education was on display Wednesday at Abbett Elementary School -- and it had absolutely nothing to do with reading, writing or arithmetic.
Instead, classes of students filed into the gymnasium in order to be thanked and congratulated for their efforts in contributing to the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, which is ongoing. Abbett Elementary won the school-aged competition for the fifth consecutive year by collecting more than 2,200 pounds of non-perishable food, according to a joint news release from the United Way, Associated Churches and Letter Carriers' Food Drive.
Mayor Tom Henry, explaining to the children that their effort "makes Fort Wayne just a little bit better place to live," commended the student body during the ceremony. Afterward, Abbett Elementary Principal Robin Peterman reflected on the children's accomplishment.
"This shows the children that what they do truly matters," she said. "They're part of the community, because of something like this. That's the best gift you can give anyone -- teach them how to change the world simply by being a part of it, that giving is a part of life."
Residents can get involved with the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, as well. On Saturday, those who want to contribute can place their donation of non-perishable items in a grocery bag next to their mailbox, where mail carriers will pick it up and deliver the food for distribution to food banks.
Milton Gray, the Letter Carriers' Food Drive chairman, said Wednesday that the food drive is one of the best things in which he has participated.
"We'll have 500 volunteers out on Saturday (to load trucks with food)," Gray said. "It's amazing to see. People put aside whatever differences they might have and just come in and help. When it comes to this day, it's like everyone's family."
According to a news release, this year is the 21st Food Drive to Stamp Out Hunger. Last year, letter carriers collected 70.7 million pounds of food donations along postal routes. Locally, the Fort Wayne-area collected 743,481 pounds of food.
In Fort Wayne, much of the food will be taken to Associated Churches Neighborhood Food Network, which offers families food at no charge through a network of 28 local food pantries in churches and social agencies. In 2012, Associated Churches served nearly 1.5 million meals to more than 98,000 individuals, the release said.