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Smith student leads the way in fight against hunger

Kenny Shoemaker and his classmates show off the donation.

When the economy tumbled in 2008, Nancy Shoemaker and her two daughters found themselves needing assistance just to make ends meet. For two years, they had to rely on the local Angel Tree to provide their Christmas.

Fast forward 13 years, and the Shoemaker family operates a food pantry out of their home for those in need, and her 3rd-grade son has championed the cause.

On Thursday, the 8-year-old surprised his classmates at Smith Elementary by donating 1,109 non-perishable food items for the districtwide drive.

Kenny Shoemaker was met with cheers when he escorted the students to see the piles of food on the front porch of the campus.

But Kenny didn’t do it for the applause.

"About four years ago, Kenny went with me when my church was making sandwiches for those in need," Nancy Shoemaker said. "Afterward, he talked to the preacher who was passing them out and that really made an impact on Kenny. He told me then, 'Mom, no one should ever have to go hungry.'" 

And Kenny has done his part to make that happen for local residents.

Kenny Shoemaker presents a certificate noting his donation.

"Each year, Kenny sets a goal of what he wants to donate for the food drive at school," Nancy said. "This year as a family, we've already brought about 300 things for the food drive. But last week, Kenny told us he wanted to go big this year, and the number 1,000 came up. He's worked hard to make this happen."

Kenny created a certificate to present to Principal Rachel Nicks during the surprise donation this week.

"We set a goal as a school to collect 5,000 items," Mrs. Nicks said. "We always make our food drive a competition because the kids really get into it that way. Kenny's donation has really gotten us close to that goal."

Nancy and her husband, K.R. Shoemaker, arrived at Smith Elementary Thursday afternoon with a truck loaded down with boxes and cans. When the entire donation was unloaded and stacked on the front sidewalk, Kenny brought his teacher, Adrianna Monge, and fellow classmates down to see the food.

"I love how hard they've worked," Mrs. Nick's said. "They even labeled and sorted everything for us so we don't have to do that."

Ms. Monge said this serves as a great lesson for her students.

Mia Garcia helps move the donation inside.

"What Kenny and his family have done is amazing and so cool," Ms. Monge said. "They are a blessing to others, and it makes it so easy to share with my students about this kind of generosity. I could just cry right now."

When the community food pantry at First Baptist Church of Princeton was vandalized a few years ago, the Shoemakers relocated the pantry to their house, and the Answered Prayers food bank is still operational.

When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and families hit hard times, the Shoemakers kept the pantry stocked and made sure there was always food for those who were in need.

"Princeton ISD and this community were there to help us when we needed it, and the Angel Tree helped me and my two girls and showed us how important it is during difficult times," Nancy said. "So it has inspired our family to be there for others, and Kenny is always doing his part. This blessing was all Kenny's idea."

 Principal Nicks and Ms. Monge lead students to surprise donation.

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Kenny Shoemaker reads the certificate of donation he created that outlines that 1,109 items were donated to the Smith Elementary food drive.

Mia Garcia, Gabe Sanchez, Kaiden Maxwell and Nia Obregon haul the donations inside to the collection area.

Principal Rachel Nicks and 3rd-grade teacher Adrianna Monge guide the students to the front of Smith to show students the donation, and Madilyn Russell and Zoey Perez are ecstatic to see what Kenny Shoemaker has contributed.

Fateema Samba and Maelyn Russell are surprised to see the stack of boxes, clinching their class victory in the food drive.

Fateema Samba and Maelyn Russell