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O'Connell students collect more than 15,000 cans for the hungry

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The football field at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington looked more like a grocery store than a place to throw a pass. Cans of soup were lined up and down the 50-yard line Oct. 25.

The diocesan St. Lucy Project in Manassas will receive 15,182 cans from O’Connell, which has been holding the soup drive for more than 40 years. They collected soup used to restock Christ House shelter in Alexandria.

“With our expansion and transformation into the St. Lucy Project, O'Connell has increased their donations as our distribution and storage capacity has expanded,” said Debra Beard, volunteer coordinator for St. Lucy Project.

The morning began with a living rosary. Students lined the outer edges of the field, arranging their canned soup in different shapes, including hearts, towers and even a knight. Father Gregory S. Thompson, school chaplain, processed to the field carrying a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. Each advisory group led one of the decades of the rosary.

O’Connell has a longstanding tradition of giving back to the community, said Mary Desmarais, a teacher in Expanded Services. “It’s been a gift to be able to show the next generation what it means to give back to the community,” she said. “As a Catholic, it is part of me, and it’s something you do as a Catholic school.”

As part of the sophomore retreat experience, some students went to St. Lucy Project to see firsthand the pantry where the soup will go. Expanded Services teacher Ally Esposito said the students were impressed with the statistics shared on the numbers of food insecure people in Northern Virginia. “They were able to see how the cans collected here were going straight to the warehouse and being distributed in the diocese,” said Esposito. “It was great for the kids to see the impact they are having.”

The soup collected by O’Connell lasts almost the entire year, said Beard.

“Our typical soup donations could never match what O'Connell does for us. Soup is something every pantry and family uses,” she said. “The quick pop tops help with our children's weekend food program for self-sufficient meals, as well as with homeless and the deeply impoverished who may not have access to typical  kitchen equipment.”

Vincent Cannava, program director and food source developer for the food pantry, said they store a portion of the O’Connell soup as an emergency response inventory for a good portion of the year, until it is needed to distribute to their pantries located throughout the diocese.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018