A food drive challenge between two community members led to the donation of 73 Thanksgiving meals, weighing in at 2,610 pounds of food, for Preston’s Pantry in Boyertown.

In total, the pantry distributed 255 Thanksgiving meals this year.

“They’ve managed to put a fun twist on collecting food for those less fortunate. What a great way to get their friends and neighbors involved by having a friendly challenge. We are truly amazed by their drive to help others,” said Olivia Merry, food pantry coordinator for the Boyertown Area Multi-Service.

Boyertown Area Multi-Service shared on its Facebook page a story of two community members and their journey to help those less fortunate this Thanksgiving.

Washington Elementary School fifth-grader Kelsea Gibson, 11, of Bechtelsville, set out to collect two full meals from her family and friends. She exceeded her goal rather quickly. Then, Kim Evans of Colebrookdale Township joined her in the cause. Gibson challenged Evans to see who could collect the most meals by Nov. 10. The challenge was accepted.

“Just shy of four weeks Kelsea and Kim managed to collect a combined total of 73 Thanksgiving meals. The meals weighed in at 2,610 pounds,” the Multi-Service announced on Facebook, along with photos of the donation. “Kelsea took the win with 46 meals and Kim with 27. Great job ladies! Thank you to all those who supported Kelsea and Kim in their challenge to help Preston’s Pantry feed those facing food insecurities!”

Gibson and Evans delivered their first batch, consisting of 40 completed meals on Nov. 4.

“At that time they dropped the news that they had extended the challenge, because of the overwhelming support they were receiving,” said Merry.

They collected an additional 33 more meals, bringing the total to 73.

“I think we all were just in awe in the amount of meals Kim and Kelsea collected,” said Merry. “We were so grateful for the much needed Thanksgiving meals!”

“Just amazing work by these two ladies,” she added.

Merry explained that Gibson has conducted several drives for the food pantry in the past, including pennies for Preston’s Pantry in May 2020, a toothpaste drive in June 2020 and a pandemic collection in April 2020.

“Kelsea represents the vision of Preston’s Pantry which is to ensure nobody in our community has food insecurities, as well as, inspiring the future generations to be kind and compassionate toward others. I think that she is a great example to all ages, young and old!” she said.

Gibson felt that collecting two full turkey dinners would really help out two families in the community. After easily collecting the first two dinners, she decided to up her goal.

Meanwhile, Evans started collecting her own meals.

“I have watched Kelsea's kindness over the past years with the multiple drives she has done, so when I saw that she was starting another collection drive for Thanksgiving dinners, I knew I would be donating,” said Evans, who has been friends with Kelsea's mother, Sarah, since high school.

When Evans saw that other people had started committing to Gibson’s two-meal goal, she decided to donate an entire meal. Then she thought about how she could help Gibson collect more meals.

“I am competitive (and so are so many other people) so I thought a challenge may help to bring awareness to her food drive, pull a larger community response, and have some fun while we were at it!” said Gibson.

Evans suggested a challenge so Gibson publicly challenged her on Facebook (on her Mom's page) to see who could collect the most meals. 

“I was very surprised at how much I had collected in a short period of time. I was glad that everyone pitched in to help out our awesome community. It was fun constantly seeing who was winning on a daily basis,” said Gibson. “Even though I won the challenge, Kim Evans and her effort really pushed our numbers up to help the community and that was the whole point, to do good in the community and give back when we are able to.” 

Her motto has always been "Be Kind" and if you can choose anything in the world choose kindness.

“Giving back to the community, in these crazy times we live in, was very rewarding,” said Gibson. 

“This year has been especially tough on families and I wanted to help make sure that there would be food on as many Thanksgiving tables as possible. I thought, if we could collect 20 meals, that would be great!” said Evans.

Her reaction to collecting so much?

“Gratitude, awe... my heart was happy!!” said Evans. “So many people in our community (and even some outside of the Boyertown area) joined in this drive and while we were the spearheads, they made it happen and I appreciate every bit of that kindness. And while I lost the challenge, I know that the families of our town are the real winners!”

Evans would like to thank Freed's Super Market for their support. They offered a discounted price, ordered and held the turkeys for them until delivery.

“Because of their generosity, we did not have to limit what we could collect! Thank you!!” said Evans. 

Merry said that it is individuals like Gibson and Evans that make a difference in the community with donations such as this.

“They make a profound impact on our community!” said Merry. “Starting with setting the example by initiating a collection for our pantry, their donation allows us to continue to provide food to those in our community facing food insecurities.”

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