Riverside High School's student-run food pantry in need of donations

Students at Riverside High School are learning how to serve the community and care for those in need through working in the school's food pantry. (WCHS/WVAH)

A class at Riverside High School is teaching students something they can't learn from textbooks. They are learning how to give through volunteering.

The community service class runs an on-site food pantry. With the donations of community churches, students and volunteers, the food pantry is able to generously provide food for families in the community each month, but its shelves are nearly empty.

After recently feeding 55 families, Riverside High School's food pantry is in need of donations.

“It’s a really rewarding feeling," student Emmalee Moles said. "You can tell they're appreciative.”

The students give food to whoever needs it, no questions asked.

Bill Denham, who teaches the class, said it is making a difference for students and residents.

"It's crazy. It changes a kid," Denham said. "When a kid sees people in need and they see how grateful they are coming through the food pantry, and they know that they're helping their neighbors, it just changes them."

Denham said working with the food pantry allows students to learn things they might not learn in any other class.

"They learn empathy. They learn advocacy. They learn critical thinking. 'How do we solve this problem?' One of the questions we ask in the class is not 'What do you want to do?" but 'What problem do you want to solve?' ” Denham said.

Once a month, the class and any students who volunteer, work hands-on with families who come to the pantry in need of food.

"We had a talk about what they were going to feel, who they were going to see, that they were going to see people they absolutely knew, and how to react to that, how to just help,” Denham said.

The families are able to walk through the pantry and pick out what they need. Denham said his students are not only learning how to work together but also how to treat other people.

"It just makes me smile. I left, and I just felt good. You just feel good all over,” Moles said.

"This is prideful. This is pride. We can be proud as Riverside Warriors to have this food pantry here because this is a real food pantry. This is no joke,” Denham said.

The pantry is open the third Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 11:30 am. Donations are always accepted. Items needed most are oil, flour, sugar, pasta and canned fish and chicken

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