Giving Back: 7th grader collects 1,000 canned goods

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, April 8, 2015

RESERVE — Jenna Beber is a 12-year-old on a mission.

The John L. Ory Magnet seventh grader recently completed her fifth year collecting canned soup and various other canned goods, resulting in an astounding 1,027 items collected for donation.

Annually dubbed the Soup-er Bowl, Jenna solicits canned-good donations from family and friends, while also receiving help from area schools.

Students from John L. Ory, East St. John High School and Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School chipped in this year, leading to record results.

“I thought I would get around 800 (items), maybe 900,” Jenna said. “I never thought I would get 1,000. I made my goal 1,000 and I actually reached it, which is very rewarding.”

Jenna and her mother, Shanna, took half the donations to St. John Ministry of Care, a United Way agency, with a primary purpose to provide residents of St. John the Baptist Parish in financial straits assistance in purchasing food or paying rent, mortgage and utilities.

Caseworker Annabelle Provence said Ministry officials had no idea the amount of food Jenna collected until it was delivered.

“We’ve had large donations from groups, but never so much by an individual,” Provence said. “This young lady amazed us with her generosity. They had monetary donations that they used, along with coupons, to purchase some of the food. In addition, she and her family made sure that there were no expired items. This saved our pantry staff many hours.”

The amount of food donated will feed many families for a week, Provence said.

Jenna and Shanna are delivering the rest of the canned goods to area churches and food banks.

Jenna said she was inspired to launch her Soup-er Bowl collection effort after hearing a lesson about citizenship and giving back to the community at church. She said the local lesson coincided with a Disney Channel campaign that included many of her childhood idols promoting the same thing.

Her first effort finished with more than 300 items collected. Things have grown since, and Jenna said she has no plans on stopping.

Shanna Beber said she never expected her daughter to triple the numbers received following her first effort, but can never put anything completely past Jenna, who she described as a “go-getter.”

“When she puts her mind to something, we expect nothing but success out of her,” Shanna said. “As much as I am surprised at such a high number, we knew she would at least come close.”

Jenna said her favorite part of the process is the sense of community shared when she is able to drop off the donated items, which was especially nice this year at Ministry of Care.

“I was so happy,” Jenna said. “The two ladies appreciated it so much. They gave us a tour of the place and told us about their process. It was very interesting. I love seeing the looks on their faces. We opened up the trunk of my car, and it is was all there and they were so happy.”

Provence said Jenna is a wonderful example to the community and a great help to Ministry of Care.

“I am sure this will inspire others, kids and adults, to be more aware of the needs of others,” she said. “The St. John Ministry of Care is so grateful that she knew about the MOC and considered us for such a large blessing. God bless her.”