Wyncote, Pa, May 14, 2021 -- Students, parents, faculty and staff donned their sneakers today– as they have each month for the past 20 school years – to donate a canned good or non-perishable food item to one of several local food pantries.  “Sneak Up on Hunger” was conceived two decades ago by a now-retired, beloved Ancillae teacher, Ms. Rita Cullison, who believed the school community had a unique ability to give – and that, as a treat on the day the donations were collected, the students could wear sneakers to school!

Since that first collection day in 2001, it is estimated that more than 1,000 bags of food have been gathered and donated annually to local food pantries from Ancillae – likely exceeding more than 20,000 bags of donated goods, given the past year’s exceptional needs during the pandemic. One of the food pantries Ancillae has partnered with for each of the twenty years is The Patrician Society of Norristown, whose client base more than doubled during the pandemic. Ms. LeeAnn Rooney, Executive Director of The Patrician Society, reflected on the impact of the Academy’s outreach program.

"Ancillae’s contributions are sorted and re-packaged into grocery baskets for distribution among approximately 2,000 needy families, who utilize our food cupboard all year long,” said Ms. Rooney. “Your entire school has made a life-changing difference for our clients when they are most in need.  Your ongoing involvement in our mission to serve the underprivileged population in our area is very impactful in so many ways.”

In addition to The Patrician Society, Ancillae has worked with Divine Mercy Parish in Philadelphia and, more recently, The Rotary Club of Glenside, which was one of the recipients of Ancillae’s large “Sneak Up on Hunger” annual Thanksgiving food drives.  In turn, the Rotary Club was able to deliver turkeys and bags of groceries to 100 families within the Cheltenham school district.

As Ms. Amy Lintner, the Academy’s Director, looks back on the origins of “Sneak Up on Hunger”, she recalls a champion teacher believing strongly in the generosity and kindness of a school community composed of people who, she believed, had a limitless ability to give.

“We are so grateful to our dear colleague, Rita Cullison, for envisioning how this outreach program could provide a foundation for community service for our elementary school,” said Ms. Lintner.  “This longstanding campaign also has served to reinforce the value of giving, even to our youngest students.”

Five years ago, recognizing the 15th anniversary of the program, The Patrician Society named its reception area in honor of Ms. Cullison, recognizing the impact she has had on the students of Ancillae-Assumpta Academy and their need for understanding service to the community.