Annie McIntyre took a class assignment to heart nourishing body and soul.
A fourth-grader at St. Clare/St. Paul School in Scranton, Annie was in the midst of online schooling when she received a Lenten reflection project from her teacher, Stephanie Tolerico. The fourth- and fifth-grade religion and science teacher, wanted her fourth-graders to think about ways to help those around them during Lent and this uncertain time. Tolerico urged them to think “out of the box” for ways they could give back, even while stuck at home.
“I wanted them to look at who they could help around the house or someone else, even without physically being there in person,” Tolerico said. “See what positive things can come from an unfortunate situation.”
Annie, who lives in the city’s West Mountain neighborhood, thought of a whole different box entirely — a pizza box. With some help from her parents, Kirsten and David McIntyre, Annie contacted family friend John Watkins, owner of Mamma Mia’s Pizza in Scranton, to send several trays of pizza and orders of cinnamon knots to the intensive care units at local hospitals.
“I thought it would be a good idea to give them food,” said Annie, 10. “Maybe if they are busy, they wouldn’t have time to stop and get something for themselves. They’ve done a lot for all of us in my community. It just came right into my mind to do that.”
Annie’s parents both work in health care — her dad as a nurse anesthetist for North American Partners in Anesthesia and her mom as a clinical nurse manager for Edward R. Leahy Jr. Center Clinic for the Uninsured, which provides free non-emergency health care to uninsured Lackawanna County residents. Annie has seen firsthand the long hours her parents work and the way they care about their jobs and patients.
“She came up with this on her own. She said to me, ‘Mom, you always take dinner over to Daddy at the hospital. Maybe we could take dinner to them,’” her mom recalled. “We’re good friends with (Mamma Mia’s owners), and she knows we’re all involved in helping out in the community together. She really just picked up on that and put it all together.”
Watkins is no stranger to community initiatives and always is willing to donate or lend a hand, especially know in times of crisis. He was more than happy to help with Annie’s project.
“I thought it was such a sweet idea for a young child to come up with,” he said. “(Annie) is very smart and outgoing, and it didn’t even surprise me that she could come up with something like this. I know this idea was all her. … It’s wonderful to see the community coming together, and it’s a nice thing that even the children understand that need.”
On the first Friday of the project, six trays of pizza and four orders of cinnamon knots were sent to Commonwealth Health Moses Taylor Hospital’s intensive care unit, along with a note signed by Annie. It explained her project and thanked them for the work they’re doing.
“I decided the best way I could help from home is to give food nourishment to the doctors and nurses in our community,” Annie’s note read. “Sharing food with our friends and family is a way to share love.”
From there, word spread through social media as intensive care workers shared photos of the pizza and Annie’s note. While Annie never expected to get recognition, she was humbled that she could help those risking their lives and time with their family and friends. She was glad to let them know they were appreciated and to make their day a little brighter.
“I felt so happy to see they liked the food,” she said. “It made me feel good.”
At the same time, Annie, her mom and Watkins decided they would make this a weekly practice, sending pizza and dessert to different floors of different hospitals, including Geisinger Community Medical Center and Regional Hospital of Scranton. McIntyre emailed Tolerico to update her on Annie’s project, which warmed the teacher’s heart.
“She’s such a sweet little girl, and the fact that she was able to inspire the adults around her to get involved to give back to the community, that’s just wonderful,” Tolerico said, adding McIntrye’s support for her daughter was moving. “I am very proud to be her teacher. When I read the email from her mom, I cried. She is a great kid.”
Annie noted she learned from example, as she always sees her parents helping the community however they can. In addition to her mom’s work with organizations through the Leahy Clinic, if the McIntyres hear of someone in need, their first instinct is to pool their resources with friends and see what they can do.
“You never realize it, but your kids are listening to you and paying attention to everything,” McIntyre said. “It really hit us that (Annie) draw on what she knew and completely merged all of the areas of her life to help out others. We’re proud.”
The larger sense of community and giving back that Annie showed through this project is a big reason why the McIntyres chose Catholic education, she said. Though they make sacrifices for their children to attend Catholic school — including Annie’s siblings, Mollie, a second-grader, and Jayna an eighth-grader, both at St. Clare/St. Paul School, and David, a sophomore at Scranton Preparatory School — moments like these reinforce their reasons.
“You’re proud of your children when they come up with ideas like that, ones that look at a bigger scope of how they can help the people around them,” McIntyre said. “These are definitely the lessons we’re trying to instill in our children. Giving back is a big one because we’re always trying to teach them that not everyone is as fortunate and (has) blessings you have, (so) you should try to pay that forward.”
McIntyre also referenced Fred Rogers’ well-known quote about looking for “helpers” in times of crisis. She passes on this sentiment to her children, especially during a time that can be just as scary for adults as it can for kids.
“When we say, ‘Look for the helpers,’ in her little mind, hearing about those frontline workers, the nurses, the doctors, that’s who she sees as the helpers,” McIntyre said.
She also pointed out that other children from the school sought to help others like her daughter did. Annie’s friend, Annie Riley, a sixth-grader at the school, is making masks for health care workers. McIntyre hopes these acts of kindness are contagious, and Annie agrees.
“We’re all wanting to help out, even if it’s in little ways,” Annie said, “and we hope it can help in bigger ways.”
Meet Annie McIntyre
- Age: 10
- Residence: West Mountain section of Scranton
- Family: Parents, Kirsten and David McIntyre, and three siblings, Mollie, Jayna and David
- Education: Fourth-grader at St. Clare/St. Paul School
If you plan to donate
If you wish to donate food to facilities, check its specific donation guidelines. Most only are accepting food prepared in a commercial kitchen.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT