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East Meadow Daisies learn importance of ‘little acts of kindness’

E.M. scouts help food pantry deliver cookies

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East Meadow Daisy Sky Bruzgis, a Barnum Woods kindergartner, gave it everything she had as she dragged her green plastic wagon filled with bags of food into McVey Elementary School. She was dressed for the occasion, wearing, under her blue Girl Scout vest, a sequined shirt that sparkled.

She and other scouts from East Meadow Daisy Troop 1119 were there to drop off donated Girl Scout cookies, but Sky, 5, had asked members of her extended family to donate other items, too. All of the donations were for the McVey Mighty Kind Market, a food pantry that the school’s principal, Kerry Anne Dunne, started last May after seeing a need in the community created by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I can’t believe how big that wagon is and how much is in it,” said Allison Vardakis, one of the troop’s cookie moms. “Ms. Dunne turned our whole gym into a food pantry. It’s amazing what she did there. And they’re still getting emails weekly from people in the community in need of food.”

The members of Daisy Troop 1119, all kindergartners from McVey except for Sky, had arrived last Friday to deliver 28 boxes of Girl Scout cookies that had been donated by people as “gifts of caring” during the troop’s individual and drive-through cookie sales in March. Traditionally, scouts sell the cookies outside grocery stores or in malls, or go door to door. But because they were constrained by the pandemic, the Girl Scouts of Nassau County gave the Daisies permission to hold a drive-through sale at Veterans Memorial Park.

Vardakis said that she and Julie Leake, another cookie mom, thought it was important for the girls to know where the donated cookies were going. They also donate to troops overseas, but the girls don’t get to see that, Vardakis said.

Sky’s mother, Maria Bruzgis, said she didn’t know the McVey pantry existed. “You just don’t know how many people in the community need help,” she said, adding that she grew up in East Meadow. “We should do this all the time with the girls. Sky was excited to come here and donate.”

Originally, the girls were only going to drop off the cookies, but some, like Sky, asked if they could bring other items too. Troop Co-leader Kim Gonzalez reached out to Amanda Napolitano, the school social worker, and Napolitano emailed her a list of the items the pantry needed. Napolitano also asked if the Daisies would like to tour the pantry.

When Dunne and Napolitano greeted the girls at the school’s entrance, and once inside the gym, Dunne and Napolitano, seeing a learning opportunity, showed them the pantry’s sorting area. After explaining how important the pantry is to the 50 to 100 families that use it, Dunne pointed to the different kinds of donated items, which even included clothing and boots.

“Every Friday, people come in and take the food that they will need for their families for the week,” Napolitano told the children. “It’s very important that we do this. We have extra food, but many families are hungry.”

Then, each scout was invited to place boxes of cookies on the appropriate table. Gonzalez said that actually delivering the cookies was important. “By taking a tour of the food pantry and helping unpack the donations onto the tables, the girls were able to make a direct connection between the act of giving and seeing how a community member might benefit,” she said. “It definitely helped reinforce how little acts of kindness add up to a big help for the community.”