Passion for service leads Prep students to collect 30 tons of food

Nov. 20—SCRANTON — Patrick Devaney parked his pickup truck in front of Scranton Preparatory School and opened the tailgate. Boxes of muffin mix, cans of corn and peas, cups of fruit and bottles of water filled the cargo bed.

Classmates grabbed the 1,200 pounds of food and water — purchased through donations Patrick and his friends received from cleaning lawns — and added the items to a growing pile in the school's lobby last week.

As of Friday, the school had collected 59,389 pounds of food — or about 91 pounds per student. For the last few weeks, the 650 Prep students have searched through their kitchen cabinets, purchased extra groceries or asked for family support for the Great Ignatian Challenge.

Prep won the challenge last year, and hopes to again collect more pounds per student than 18 other Jesuit schools on the East Coast. The competition concludes Tuesday.

Patrick saw an opportunity for his business, Paddy's Lawn Care Service, to help. The junior from Dunmore had mowed lawns since the age of 12 and saw his business grow even more once he got his driver's license and Dodge Dakota.

With the approval of the administration, Patrick recruited friends and classmates for fall lawn cleanup, in exchange for service hours. More than 15 students helped. Junior Sadie McDonald had already completed her 30-hour service requirement but picked up a rake several times.

"I just find pleasure in helping others," she said.

Patrick received more than $500 in donations from homeowners, which he and a friend took to Sam's Club to fill the back of his truck.

"There is a for-profit leaf job, and $200 is temporary," Patrick said. "This feeling, this memory, this accomplishment is forever."

Last year, the 37 tons of food collected by Prep helped stock food pantries through the winter, said Virginia Farrell, art history teacher and faculty chair of the challenge.

Cases of water, cans of vegetables and bags of rice formed a wall in the school's lobby last week. Volunteers moved the food lining other hallways to the former AAA building behind Prep and have already started distributing items to nine different charities throughout Lackawanna County.

Senior Ray Rinaldi, a student chair of the project, helped unload Patrick's truck.

"We have standards at Prep," Ray said. "When students exceed these standards, it shows what this school is and what students want to do here. ... It's more than a competition. It's for people who need it."

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