They started out needing something to do after school, but a year later they’re working to cement their West Middle School legacy.
As schools close for winter break, a group of 10 eighth-graders at the school are wrapping up a canned food drive that aimed at bringing in thousands of cans of food for the Lazarus House in Lawrence. It’s the third such effort the boys have run for the shelter. They’ve given themselves the name “Laz in the House.”
They were brought together by retired assistant principal Debra Downes, who left the school last year. She brought them together because they needed something to do outside of class -- not that they were thrilled with the idea at first.
“At first, I thought this was going to be a drag,” Abraham Masunzu, 13, said. “It was only every Friday at first. But after the first few weeks, we came every day. We were eager to work on it.”
The group’s first task was to run a donation drive for clothing. The season was changing and the need for winter jackets and other clothing was growing. The group jokingly set a goal of bringing in one ton — 2,000 pounds — of clothing. Lazarus House officials told them to reconsider, cautioning them that they should tone it down and not establish a high goal, only to be disappointed.
Ken Campbell, director of Food Services at Lazarus House, was at the other end of that conversation.
“They wouldn’t hear any of that,” he said, chuckling. “They maintained their very high goal.”
Halfway through the drive, Laz in the House reached their goal of 2,000 pounds of clothing. They would ultimately come to double their goal and bring in two tons of winter clothing. But for Abraham, it wasn’t how much they brought in that stood out to him.