The Marion County Food Bank is well-stocked in the cereal department, thanks to friends and neighbors from 800 miles away.
Whitwell Middle School students unpacked and delivered 600 boxes of cereal intended for their county's needy families.
Eighth grader Jack Benjamin said, "All this was collected in less than one week, and these great people brought it down in a 14 hour trip."
He's talking about the school's "Philly Friends." When former principal Linda Hooper put out the call for help on social media, she was hoping local folks would bring over a few boxes of cereal. No one expected an immediate, enthusiastic response from the Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania.
Norman Einhorn, one of the organizers of the Pennsylvania food drive said, "Our own community came through for us, and then we went to the supermarket. People starting giving us gift cards, and lots of cash. We learned quickly, this is about much more than just boxes of cereal."
Einhorn and Rabbi Shaun Simonhazani are among many Jews worldwide who have made a connection with the school. Eighteen years ago, Whitwell students started collecting paper clips to represent the Jews who perished in concentration camps in World War II. Their efforts led to a movie, a museum, and a special place in the hearts of millions.
Rabbi Simonhazani said, "To know that these Whitwell children who did not have family who died like mine did, and were not in Europe at that time says so much about this region. And we're grateful for the generosity we saw in our home community. I think it's just an amazing project."
The cereal collection in Pennsylvania exceeded anyone's expectations. There were also cash donations of $2100.
"The money's important," Einhorn said, "But more important is the feeling that we're here for each other when needs arise."
It's yet another lesson for Whitwell students who see first-hand the benefits of compassion and tolerance.
8th grader Morgan Green said, "It shows us that even though we're far apart from the Synagogue in Pennsylvania, we still care so much for each other and the people around us."
The Har Zion Temple is part of several synagogues and communities known as Philly Friends of Paper Clips, which conducts visits and student exchanges with Whitwell Middle on a regular basis.