Long Island teenager founds Project Pantry to help those in need

ByMichelle Charlesworth and Eyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, May 1, 2015

BAY SHORE (WABC) -- It's a childhood rite of passage: trick or treating on Halloween. But one local girl gave up her chance at a bucket full of candy and went Above and Beyond to help the families who need it most.

As Above and Beyond turns our focus to kids doing great things, we honor Gina Handlik, just a freshman in high school, who founded Project Pantry.

"One person makes a change. It all starts with one person," said Gina.

In the cold and the dark, they go door to door in neighborhoods and leave fliers asking people to donate food, then a few days later they pick it up!

"You can see the picture on the Facebook page of the two girls in the living room with all the bags, and they were very happy, and we said this is good," said Gina's mom, Laurinda Handlik.

The idea came from 14-year old Gina, during the time of the year when kids are always talking about going door to door, only not to help people but for trick or treat.

"On Halloween, instead of going around collecting candy, we decided to go around and collect non-perishable food, because it's around holiday time when more people need it, and more people are generous," Gina said.

Instead of getting candy, she thought let's do some good. And after Halloween it grew to a dozen kids, different nights, drop offs at different pantries around Long Island, like Pronto in Bay Shore. But Gina always gets the same great reaction on doorsteps.

"They say they're very proud, and they're happy that people in their own community are doing this, and that we're teens, that makes it even better," she said.

It's a lot of schlepping, organizing and braving the elements. The kids don't do it for credit and there hasn't been any fanfare. Just a quiet hardworking little army of high school kids doing good, even having a little fun.

Gina shrugs off any praise and just hopes other teens see this and start their own food drives.

"They can start it in their own community, and if they really want to be a big part of it, they can start it, grab kids. It's not really anything hard you have to do, it's not hard," Gina said.

But it is going above and beyond and it makes a big difference. Pantries with empty shelves need this kind of help.

Gina just started with an idea and some compassion, and it was contagious.

If you would like to help her and Project Pantry out, they have a Facebook page.

If you want to nominate an extraordinary young person who is going Above and Beyond, we'd love to hear about it and maybe tell his or her story, reach out to us at 7online.