|Published:||May 20, 2013 5:18 PM EDT|
|Updated:||May 20, 2013 6:14 PM EDT|
FORT MYERS, Fla. - A southwest Florida principal known for her dedication to feeding families is hanging up her hat. Holly Bell is retiring from Orange River Elementary, and is leaving behind a legacy.
Principal Holly Bell is spending the last week walking the halls of the school she loves, and visiting the students who love her in return.
"The kids are just everything. It just makes me who I am to come to school every day," Bell said.
Bell has been in education for decades. For the last 8 she's been Orange River Elementary's leading lady. It's the very same school off Palm Beach Boulevard where her mother taught for 20 years.
Students and their families here, she says, face challenges. "Working late, I heard something outside, and I found a couple of mommies looking through out big dumpsters for food for their families," she said.
Seven years ago she started a backpack program to fill those empty stomachs. "It was so successful. We served about 790 kids out of our 820," she said.
That's since changed to a food pantry. She also says more than 500 of about 800 kids don't speak English. So she launched a program to teach not only students but their parents.
And then there's the community gardens, where she shows kids how to grow their own food.
The decision to retire has not been easy. But she says, now is the time, and she's thankful for the lives she's touched, and for those who've touched her's in return.
Bell says she has some plans for retirement, one of them, is to go on a cruise with her mom. She also hopes to stay involved in impacting students lives, perhaps, by volunteering in the future.