Each year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, the S.T.A.R.S. (Students Together Achieving Respect and Success) club of East Islip High School holds its annual food drive, going out into the community to collect frozen turkeys and non-perishable food items on behalf of the needy.

Dorsey Palios, the S.T.A.R.S. advisor, maintains a map of the East Islip School District, sectioned off into 40 routes. Prior to the drive, the organization forms teams comprised of four students plus one parent driver, and each team then picks one of those routes to work with. The weekend before the drive, the S.T.A.R.S. students go to each house on their route to deliver a flyer, noting that they’ll be back on the following Thursday between 5 and 8 p.m. to pick up any food donations. During the food drive, the teams then return to those houses, with students going in pairs to collect the food “trick-or-treat” style while the parents stay in the cars.

At this year’s drive, 32 of 40 possible routes were covered, and an enormous amount of food was collected, totaling over 15,000 items. Vehicles from local churches and food pantries were waiting at the high school’s parking lot as the students returned with the food donations. After each team unloaded the food they had collected, they warmed up with some hot cocoa before going home, secure in the knowledge that they had helped hungry families in their community.

“The S.T.A.R.S. food drive is a wonderful experience for all involved,” said Palios, who cites it as her favorite school event of the year. “The students have fun and do something good for others. The community – which responds generously every year to the drive – gets to donate to others and also see the best of our East Islip youth in action. And the food pantries are very grateful…they have come to depend on our contributions to get them from Thanksgiving to Christmas.”