One Seymour nine-year-old collected over a ton of food and donated over 1,400 pounds to Shelton’s own Spooner House after worrying about the number of children living in food deprived environments.
As Samuel Rodrigue sat in Roma Pizzeria in Ansonia with his dad, Glen Rodrigue, they enjoy a warm meal on a cool autumn night.
Samuel knows this is special; they do this once a week. However, they also enjoy a warm meal at home each night; Samuel knows this is special too.
Samuel,9, is so bothered by the amount of kids who are not as fortunate that he sprung into action and decided to help in any way possible.
“One night me and my dad were talking about kids in inner cities and that just got me thinking how every single night my dad cooks me a warm meal for dinner, and we sit down at the table and we’re able to talk, and every single morning when I wake up my dad makes me a nice warm breakfast,”, Samuel said. “Yet, other kids don’t have that.”
So, Samuel started Sam’s Kids, a non-perishable food drive to benefit local food pantries. He started it on Sept. 17.
He drew a flyer for the fundraiser, which a friend, Mike Azzarone, later took and designed into professional flyers for Sam. Sam wants to hold local food drives and encourage others to do the same. He also wants to raise awareness of childhood hunger.
Initially, Samuel started by collecting 530 pounds of food donated at Chatfield-Lopresti School in Seymour. He put a shopping cart in the school and gave out flyers to students to take home to their parents, asking them to send in food. Samuel said it felt good to see the carriage get full. He and his dad delivered the food to Spooner House.
While at Spooner House, Samuel stocked shelves and noticed that the shelter needed more food. He took notice of what was needed. Sam’s father said peanut butter is one of Samuel’s favorite items because a single jar makes many sandwiches. Sam said he wanted to see what Spooner House needed, especially for children.
“I went in there because if I go into in there to see what they actually need, then I’m not asking for any old thing that maybe they don’t need, which I’m just giving it away,” Samuel said.
He made a small list, which consisted of peanut butter, jelly, canned potatoes, Hamburger Helper, cereal, oatmeal Chef Boyardee. He also listed Manwich Sloppy Joe mix, aluminum foil, coffee, tea, beans, rice, juice, soups, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, canned tomatoes and pasta sauce. Samuel says the list contains items he would like most from the food drives.
Samuel then handed his list to shoppers going into Adam Food store on Saturday, Oct. 8, and Sunday, Oct. 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then he waited.
Saturday delivered nice weather and people delivered bags of food to Sam. Sunday came; it rained, but Sam still stayed.
He stayed despite the rain under the small roof outside the store with his dad collecting food. As it rained, people watched him; more people gave him food; some people cried. It became very emotional, his father said.
At the end of the two days, Samuel had collected 1,440 pounds of food that his father delivered to Spooner House in Shelton. But that is not the end of Samuel’s story.
The weekend Samuel stood outside Adams Food store, he missed playing a weekend of hockey with his teammates. The Rinks in Shelton heard of what Samuel did and held a food drive for Sam’s Kids for two games. They collected 130 pounds of food, over two games, which was donated to Seymour Food Pantry. In total, Samuel has collected over 2,110 pounds of food since September, but he still wants to do more.
He is reaching out to other schools, businesses and agencies to collect food. He is also reaching out to other food pantries to accept food. He has one goal in mind, ending childhood hunger.
Samuel and his dad gave bins to three Kids First Learning Centers in Shelton, to William Raveis Real Estate in Shelton and to Hide Out Daycare in Shelton. He has also contacted St. Vincent DePaul food pantry in New Haven, Woodbridge Food Pantry in Woodbridge, and Sterling House Community Center in Stratford, all with the purpose of giving them food. He wants to give food, and people want to get him food.
Family friend, Angela Kyratas Diakomis, who works at City Line Distribution, spoke to her employer about Sam’s Kids. The company offered to donate 14 parcels of food, which may have slightly damaged packaging but is still good perishable and non-perishable food. Sam and his dad are trying to work with the food pantries to pick up the food. But Sam still wants to do more.
Samuel has another dream. He said that starting in January he wants to have a Sam’s Kids in each State across the nation, all within four months.
Another family friend, Kevin Dorgan, started the website to help Samuel. Sam’s Kids has a form online with a template to make individualized flyers and also provides information on how to start another Sam’s Kids drive. He already has one person planning to host a drive in Maryland.
People are noticing, and they want to thank him and are asking him to speak about Sam’s Kids.
On Nov. 9, Sam will be a guest speaker at the Seymour Board of Education meeting, where they will recognize him and his work with Sam’s Kids. Samuel will also be a guest speaker at Seymour Lions Club on Dec. 18.
This week, Samuel will visit Emmett O’Brian Technical School because they started their own Sam’s Kids food drive, and Sam will go collect the food.
While Samuel and his dad were eating in Roma Pizzeria, the owner Louie Bekiri came over to Samuel and his dad. He and his son, Adrian Bekiri, told Samuel they heard about all the food he has collected and what a good job he did. They shook his hand and ask him how he got all that food. Sam tells them about what he did at Adams Food store.
Both Bekiri and his son tell Samuel they are happy for him and proud of him. Before leaving, they tell Samuel and his dad that their meal is on the house. Samuel leaned back and smiled; his dad wiped away tears. Rodriguez says he is proud of Samuel.
“It feels good to know that you are doing something great, and it also feels good to know that you are giving,” Samuel said.
For more information or to make a donation to Sam’s Kids food drive visit www.feedingsamskids.com.