MADISON — When the pandemic halted in-person learning this spring as well as sports, Liana Hartwell decided to use the time she would have spent on the softball field to create crafts, selling them to benefit the school’s food cupboard.

A fifth-grader at Madison Junior High School, Liana, 10, said that she wanted to help those within her school community who are in need.

Since her spring softball season was canceled, she used free time creating one-of-a-kind bookmarks and loom-band bracelets, which she decided to sell for a profit to benefit her school community.

Beginning in April, she started selling her products with the goal of raising $100.

“I felt bad for the people that don’t have as much as me,” Liana said.

Liana’s efforts raised $525 in just a few months. She donated the money to the Madison Junior High Food Pantry, which serves about 25 families in the district. On Tuesday, she delivered the money to Albert Veneziano, one of the coordinators of the pantry.

“I feel bad for the people who do not have enough food, so I wanted to do something to help,” Liana said.

Her products were sold by donation with some giving 50 cents and others up to $30. The average donation, her mom said, was about $5.

“It was her own idea. She was making some bookmarks for family and just decided it would be a good idea to sell these to raise money for the food cupboard,” Lindsay Hartwell, Liana’s mom, said. “So she started making bookmarks and then added bracelets to it.”

Albert Veneziano is the food pantry coordinator at Madison Junior High School in Madison. The pantry recently benefited from a student’s fundraising efforts. Liana Hartwell, 10, raised $525 by selling handmade bracelets and bookmarks at the school. She donated the money to the pantry Tuesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Initially, Liana sold her bracelets and bookmarks to family and friends, then expanded her operations to a yard sale hosted by her grandmother and then brought them to her school, where staff members purchased them.

“The staff here has been very supportive,” Lindsay Hartwell said. “Almost $200 of the money raised came directly from this staff.”

Liana received supplies from her grandmother and parents to create the bookmarks and bracelets.

The Madison Junior High Food Pantry was established in September 2017 and is open to all families in Maine School Administrative District 59, which serves about 600 students in three schools: Madison Elementary, Madison Junior High and Madison Area Memorial High School. The food pantry is open from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursdays, though other arrangements can be made with the coordinators, Veneziano and Dorris Lindblom.

“Words can’t express how proud we are of her,” Lindsay Hartwell said. “We thought it was a great idea and continue to support her. I thought it was a great idea, and I’m proud that she came up with it all by herself.”

Veneziano, who teachers math to students in grades six through seven at the junior high, said that any student within the Madison school system has access to the food cupboard. At the beginning of the pandemic in March, about 30 families benefitted from it each week. Now, that number is at about 25 per week.

“(Veneziano) works hard to keep the food cupboard going,” Lindsay Hartwell said. “We are glad to be a small part of that.”

Local businesses, families and community members contribute to the pantry with food and monetary donations, Veneziano said.

“If someone needs something, we can get stuff for them,” Veneziano said. “It’s kind of a hole in the wall.”

Moving forward, Liana said she plans to continue fundraising next year to benefit the food pantry with the addition of brownies.

Those who wish to make donations can contact Veneziano to make arrangements.

“It’s very selfless to do something like this,” Veneziano said. “Any time you see that in a young person, you want to encourage it.”


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