It started out as a school assignment.

It ended with a busload of charity, and a valuable lesson in generosity and compassion.

A grade 8 class from Greenbank Middle School in Ottawa was looking for a way to fulfill what their teacher calls a “character education initiative.” They had to find a way to help others. How they did it was up to them.

The 23 classmates decided to collect food for Debra Dynes Family House – a resource centre and food bank in a community housing neighbourhood in Ottawa’s Rideauview Park area.

The students raided their home cupboards. They canvassed family and friends. They sold baking. They even scoured the internet for dollar-stretching coupons.

And when all was said and done the class had taken their assignment to a whole new level. They collected over 2,500 items from cans of soup to packages of diapers. So much that they needed a school bus to deliver it to Debra Dynes Thursday morning. “Awesome bunch of kids,” exclaims their teacher Don Behn. “They put this together all on their own. I’m pretty proud of them.”

"It is kind of a big process, trying to get this much food. And it isn't as easy as we kind of thought originally. But it was definitely worth it in the end, "says student Madeline McCrady.

The people at Debra Dynes are thrilled. The centre’s tiny food cupboard serves over 1200 people every month. Their emergency lunch program feeds over 70 children a day. "It brings chills. It absolutely brings chills that we have kids out there who understand that they can make a difference,” says the centre’s co-ordinator, Barbara Carroll. “This is a nice reminder that we have a lot of great kids in Ottawa.”

The children have made a valuable contribution. But they also learned a valuable lesson. Madeline McCrady says “It really opened my eyes because I really want to help more now. And I didn’t even realize that I could.” Her teacher adds “They realize what they’ve done has an impact on their community.”