For the past nine years, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School has held a candy drive to help support and serve Valley organizations. This year, they surpassed their goal by donating over 900 pounds of candy (912, to be exact!) to essential employees at hospitals, senior centers and nonprofits in Phoenix.
“The idea for the candy drive came from our STA Serves program,” School Counselor Pam Hudgins, who has been part of the St. Thomas community for 20 years, said. “STA Serves provides students in grades PK-8 with the opportunity to help out in the community.”
Hudgins said that the students were very excited by the thought of donating their candy to others in need, as well as individuals who serve our country and community. Some of the newer STA students participated in the drive for the first time.
“It was a brand new concept and something that they were not accustomed to. It was fun to watch our current students explain it to the new students and see their excitement about the program and where the candy goes,” Hudgins said.
In the first two years, the candy drive was treated as a contest, with the grade level bringing in the most candy receiving a prize.
To go along with St. Thomas’ mission statement, which includes a commitment to service, the faculty has shown students the importance of giving to others with no expectation of a reward.
“Participants found that the reward comes in thank you notes and pictures that we have received from the individuals and groups who benefitted from their generosity,” Hudgins said. “They find that happiness and the rewarding feeling comes from giving just to give and knowing that they have made a difference in someone’s life.”
The candy drive took place for one week before fall break. Once the candy was collected, the students decorated gift bags filled with the donated treats.
“It made me feel good. I felt fortunate that I could give candy, because I knew it would go to people who needed and deserved it,” eighth-grader Bianca W. said.
All of the candy came directly from students, meaning they personally collected each piece.
“We challenged them to donate both their favorite candies and those that they do not like as much,” Hudgins said.
Members of the United States Military, the Phoenix Police Department, Maggie’s Place, the Granite Reef Senior Center, St. Vincent de Paul and Valleywise Health Medical Center were recipients of this year’s drive.
“The candy drive is important because we give first responders a bit of joy, and it gives the troops energy to help in the community,” fourth-graders Jack and Henry said.
“The students loved hearing the total daily weight of the candy collected on the afternoon announcements,” Hudgins said. “Everyone who received the candy was very appreciative and touched by the students’ thoughtfulness. They especially appreciated the handwritten notes and drawings!”