15 Sep 2014
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High School Student Helps Feed Madison's Hunger

Dan Collins enlists residents, businesses and other groups in month-long event.

High School Student Helps Feed Madison's Hunger High School Student Helps Feed Madison's Hunger High School Student Helps Feed Madison's Hunger High School Student Helps Feed Madison's Hunger High School Student Helps Feed Madison's Hunger

One of anything might not seem like much, but it was more than enough for the just-completed food drive for Madison’s Hunger.

As in, one—high school student Dan Collins, who organized the drive—and one—the truckload of food borough residents and groups donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.

“We filled 11 pallets full of food, and filled their entire truck that they brought,” said Collins, a member of Venture Crew 77 based in the Rose City.

Collins, who undertook the food drive as his Eagle Scout project, won the support of diverse organizations ranging from Drew and Fairleigh Dickinson universities to Whole Foods for the event, was officially recognized in September with a proclamation from Madison Mayor Mary-Anna Holden and the Borough Council.

"He is an incredibly hard-working, resourceful young man," Holden said. "He left no rock unturned nor let any opportunity go by. I understand 5,839 pounds of food were picked up Saturday, with donations still expected from and ."

Collins, a Livingston resident, admits to prior experience organizing projects on a small scale. He found fertile ground in Madison, where the spirit of charity volunteerism runs deep among citizens and businesses.

“I had worked with my school food drive in the past, so I could see some different kinds of things that went into it,” he said. “But truthfully, it was my first experience organizing a project of this size, but I think it will make it much easier to do the same in the future. Even from the start of the project, everyone I approached was more than willing to help out, and really came through.”

John Kennedy, who works with Venture Crew 77, said while Collins was fairly new to the group, he deftly managed the nine-month project.

"This is what an Eagle Scout does…attacks a problem with passion, coupled with a solid sense of organization and leadership," Kennedy said. "He made mistakes, learned, and made it all happen by exciting other young adults to follow his vision. He did so because he cared first, and didn’t focus on the achievement."

The Collins family has always been very involved with volunteerism, especially at St. Peter's Church in Essex Fells. Collins has served as an acolyte since age 10, as has his brother, who also sings in the choir. The family in 2010 helped renovate the church’s thrift store, which Collins’ mother helps run. He has far exceeded the service hours required by his school, Morristown-Beard, every year.

“It's very important for everyone to help out, regardless of age,” Collins said. “My grandparents still help out in a soup kitchen, in their late seventies. But it is especially important for young people. It allows you to see the world from a different angle, see how others are living and what their problems are. It breeds empathy, and helps people to understand others' situations better. Hopefully if kids start volunteering when they are young, they will doing it for the rest of your life, and build on it.”

A junior, Collins said he is looking forward to doing more service work in college.

“I hope to be active in both scout and venturing activities, and I'm looking into other ways that I can help out. Bottle Hill Day may have been the end of this specific project, but I will continue to help out with the hunger problem, and work towards making a difference.”

Do you know someone who deserves recognition for their good works? Email stuart.chirls@patch.com and let us know!

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