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Davenport West fights poverty with food pantry and washing machine

DAVENPORT -

Davenport West senior Abbie Koberg, 18, is facing her toughest assignment.

"There's a lot of people in need out there that we just don't know about," she said, on Monday, May 8.

But thanks to Abbie and others, hunger is no longer a silent problem at school.  It affects nearly half the student body in some form.  That's roughly 900 students.

Reasons why the school is creating its own on-campus food pantry.  Using a vacant classroom, River Bend Foodbank supplies food and equipment to serve needy students and families twice each month.

"If kids aren't safe, happy, healthy, clean and fed, they're not going to learn," said Jennifer O'Hare, the school's guidance social worker.

That explains a special delivery from Zeglin's on Monday.  The appliance dealer is donating a washer and dryer, so teens and families can actually wash clothes at school without charge.

O'Hare knows the sad stories after 16 years at Davenport West. The pantry is reaching about 20 families so far, with hopes to expand.

"We can't promise to fix everything," she said.  "But if we know there's a problem, we can try to address it."

The pantry also offers personal supplies, donated clothes and a weekend backpack program to fill in the gaps.

"There are people out here that care about them, care about the kind of life they're living and want to help them," said Wayne Jochmann, a volunteer at River Bend Foodbank.

It's really becoming a campus-wide project. Students are helping with the pantry's design and raising money to hook up the plumbing.

For students like Abbie Koberg, who will depart soon for Iowa State, these are life lessons that she'll remember.

"It makes me feel amazing that I'm helping our kids get a better education," she concluded.  "Get a better home life."

For these Davenport West Falcons, it's a chance to soar.