After three weather-related cancellations, the non-perishable food items collected by Morley students as part of the annual Red Wagon Food Drive were finally delivered to the West Hartford Food Pantry on Monday morning.
Although Monday's weather would ultimately have been perfect for the mile-long walk to Town Hall, the logistics of rescheduling the event, which includes participation by the West Hartford police and fire departments, for another time made it impossible.
Instead, on Monday morning Morley students in kindergarten through second grade filed out of the school, pulling red wagons full of donated food items, and West Hartford Plant Services employees helped load the goods onto trucks for delivery to Town Hall.
Organizer Dawn O'Connor said that there were more than 75 wagons, with a total of 5,000 to 6,000 items. "It's more than ever before," she said. This is the 19th year that Morley School has held the Red Wagon Food Drive.
O'Connor said that because the event, originally scheduled for Nov. 7, had been extended, members of the Morley community continued to contribute. The original plan to have Wally the Green Monster and others from the Red Sox organization participate in the event brought in extra donations as well.
The wagons have been stored in the school's courtyard for the past several weeks, and O'Connor said there was not a problem with expiration dates for any of the donated items.
"We're very glad that we were able to do it today," O'Connor said. She had found out that after the Thanksgiving holiday the West Hartford Food Pantry was empty. "They told me they were waiting for the 'motherlode,'" she said.
"We were disappointed that the Morley students were not able to walk to Town Hall, but the children should be recognized for the good they do for our neighbors and for the community," said Volunteer Coordinator Barbara Roberts.
"The Red Wagon Brigade is a special day which we look forward to every year and is almost a two-decade tradition. As disappointing as the cancellation of the walk is, the children should be recognized," Roberts said.
"Morley is such a great and compassionate school, and they always come together in such a beautiful way to help others," said Roberts.
The food delivered on Monday will help sustain the pantry through the holidays and into the winter months, she said.
"I'm so proud of my school and their outreach to the community. It sends a wonderful message for children to experience," said Morley Principal Dr. Ellen Stokoe.
Although the Red Sox organization was unable to be present for the delivery on Monday, Roberts received the following email message from Red Sox Senior Manager of Fan Services & Entertainment Stephanie Maneikis:
“The Red Sox organization was looking forward to joining the children and were disappointed that the weather was not cooperative this year. We were looking forward to coming to West Hartford and joining the Morley community and their Red Wagon Brigade parade. We are hoping that we can join Morley’s Backpack Brigade in the spring."
The Red Sox had reached out to West Hartford's Human Services Department, said Roberts, as part of the organization's "100 Acts of Kindness" during the team's 100th anniversary celebration. They were impressed by the community as well as the uniqueness of the Red Wagon Food Drive event, she said.