MONMOUTH — The top-performing academic students at Monmouth Academy want to establish a food bank at school to help students from families struggling with unemployment or homelessness.

Members of the National Honor Society at Monmouth Academy are planning to start the food bank soon and have it in full operation before Christmas.

The 22 current members of the honor society were selected for the group because their grade-point averages were 3.25 or higher and they were deemed exemplary for their leadership, service and character. Sophomores and juniors are inducted into the society each May for the following school year.

“We talked about keeping our money right in town. This year we decided to keep it right in school,” said senior Marcques Houston. “In the past we’ve given to the American Cancer Society or we’ve donated to the two food banks in town.”

Scott Wing, adviser to the National Honor Society, said students talked about keeping the collection efforts inside school walls because there is a need. “There is some homelessness among the students and there are several parents who have lost their jobs and are having difficult financial times,” he said.

Wing works as an educational technician with special education students and he is also the girls basketball coach at Monmouth Academy.

Food that comes from the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Lewiston will be purchased through the food bank at North Monmouth Community Church. There is also a food bank at United Church of Monmouth in Monmouth Center.

“We’re hoping to stock a decent supply of non-perishable food at all times and a supply of perishable food like meats on Fridays and days before vacations,” Wing said. “Sometimes the best meal of the day is hot lunch at school, so theworst time can be weekends and vacations.”

Wing added, “It’s going to be open to everybody. No paperwork will be required. We don’t want to have that stigma of, ‘Oh, you’re a poor person.’ That’s hard even on adults.”

Senior Ashley Coulombe said students want it to open soon because of the need for the assistance. “You don’t always know who is hurting,” she said.

Junior Angus Koller said, “Once people get past their first feelings, I think it’s going to be a really good thing for our school. National Honor Society students will go in first to show that it’s OK.”

The National Honor Society has received permission to use a former educational technician room, next to the school’s weight room and next to Wing’s special education room, for the food bank. The room is outfitted with shelving that will be useful for holding food.

“It’s also near the student entrance and exit door, so as they’re leaving out that door, they could grab something,” Wing said. “We’re not going to have people coming in from outside, but they’re more than welcome to take food home for their families.”

The food bank will be available to students at Monmouth Academy and Monmouth Middle School, which is just across Academy Road in the original Monmouth Academy building.

Wing said the honor society has some cash on hand to get started with its food bank.

In addition, the group has two major money-making events. One is a contest called Pennies from Heaven that is played at the week-long Winter Carnival at the high school in February. The other charity event is the Student-Faculty Basketball Game in March.

“Everything I do, I do for a reason,” Wing said. “When you need help, there often is help available. If you no longer need help, you need to step up yourself to help others.”

Dylan Thombs is president of the National Honor Society at Monmouth Academy and Sabrina Buck is vice president.

The National Honor Society members also help prepare the Cottrell-Taylor Christmas Baskets.

Volunteers distribute 75 to 90 of these baskets before Christmas.

The baskets contain all the makings for Christmas dinner, other food items and children’s gifts.

Those wishing to receive a Christmas basket should call Laurie Gifford of the Cottrell-Taylor Basket Committee before Dec. 19 at 441-4387 or leave their names at one of the schools or churches in town.