A dozen teens’ busy hands shuffled quickly, picking up cans of food and stuffing them into colorful boxes, each decorated with holiday niceties written on them.

There were green beans, corn, boxes of stuffing, cereal, pistachio granola bars, cake mixes, pasta, tuna cans and more, neatly piled inside Richard Zamorano’s eighth-grade social studies classroom at Sierra 2-8 School, 5801 S. Del Moral Blvd., earlier this week. The piles of food were being assorted and transferred into Thanksgiving holiday boxes.

These middle school students are members of the school’s social justice club and student council, and the food boxes were being prepared for the Sierra school community’s less fortunate families to have a wholesome Thanksgiving. Two of Zamorano’s former students, who are now in high school, also helped out.

“We’re all in need of something,” Zamorano, social studies teacher and club mentor, said. “You need to give back whenever you can.”

The goal is to make 30 boxes, but there almost aren’t enough boxes for the amount of donations the club received, he said.

The justice club is in charge of organizing community service events, which every eighth-grader has to do twice each semester as part of the social studies class. The club has previously organized efforts to make and deliver hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to Casa Maria soup kitchen and participated in Habitat for Humanity projects.

Efrain Puentes, 13, was making sure each gift box had a variety of foods. The one he was assembling had canned tomatoes, corn, green beans, cereal, cake mix and chili beans, among other things. “Some people don’t have as much stuff as other people and I want to help them,” he said.

Puentes is an officer of the social justice club, but his community service extends beyond what’s available through the club or school.

He and his buddy, Martin Buitimea, 13, were inspired by the Casa Maria PB&J project and set out to do more. The teens made PB&Js and gave them out to homeless people at Reid Park.

“I like to see the joy in people’s faces,” Buitimea said.

On the other side of the Zamorano’s classroom at Sierra, another group of teens were loading already packed boxes onto a cart to be hauled away to the teacher’s work room, where families can pick them up before Thanksgiving.

Any leftover boxes will be donated to Salvation Army, the teacher said.

Contact reporter Yoohyun Jung at 573-4243 or yjung@tucson.com. On Twitter: @yoohyun_jung

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