DECATUR – Carly Haines came to the LSA High School on Monday out of uniform, but she didn't get in trouble.
She also brought a sack full of donations for the WSOY Community Food Drive. Students who bring a minimum of five cans of food get a free dress code day.
“It's a great motivator,” Carly said.
The elementary students are competing by classroom. In the high school, students are grouped by prides, which is what they call their small groups for Bible study. At the end of the week, the winners will get a prize, which for now is a carefully guarded secret, Assistant Principal Allison Nolen said.
Schools across the community participate in the annual food drive, and have traditionally provided significantly large donations. The 14th annual event is set for Oct. 9 at the Airport Plaza Kroger, with a goal of 1.04 million pounds of food and cash, the record mark hit last year.
Decatur's Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army receive the donations, and last year, enough was collected that Northeast Community Fund and the Good Samaritan Inn each received $40,000. The Judy Mason Thanksgiving Basket Project received $25,000 and other local organizations received smaller donations.
To donate, visit Kroger, 1818 Airport Plaza, between 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9 or drop off donations of nonperishable food items at a participating school or business.
Sponsors include Archer Daniels Midland Co., Kroger, Dale's Southlake Pharmacy, Decatur Back & Neck Center, First Christian Church, Herald & Review, Jones & Thomas Inc./JTnet, Skeff Distributing, Soy Capital Bank and Trust, Ticket-N-Trips, United Way of Decatur and Mid-Illinois, WAND-TV and Wood Printing Services.
Decatur's public schools are participating, as usual, and have already begun collecting donations.
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“The kids are going to go into the neighborhood to drop off fliers,” said Debbie McInerney, secretary at Parsons School. “The sixth grade is going to Kroger (on collection day) to help unload vehicles.”
Signs are already up asking for donations to be dropped off, and classrooms are competing against each other for biggest donation. Sponsors offer prizes for the school with the biggest donation
St. Patrick School took top honors for schools last year, with a jaw-dropping 166,021 pounds/dollars contribution. Our Lady of Lourdes School donated 110,134 pounds/dollars and has already begun collecting for this year's drive.
Lourdes' first week of competition ended with an assembly on Sept. 25 during which willing teachers took a cream pie in the face, thanks to 4,442 items already collected. A post on the school's Facebook page urged families to donate without feelings of guilt if that meant the teacher would get a pie in the face, as the teachers had volunteered for it with good humor.
Students placed donations in stacks devoted to specific teachers, and the new staff members had the biggest stacks, Principal Chris Uptmor said. Donations came in so well that all the volunteer teachers were “honored” with a pie.
“For each teacher to get a pie in the face, they had to have at least 250 cans of food,” he said. “In our eighth-grade enrichment program, one of the things we're working on is for the kids to be responsible for the food drive this year.”
Students formed teams for marketing, accounting and public speaking and organized the whole thing, he said. Giving is more meaningful for the students if they run the drive than if adults simply tell them what to do, he said.
The enrichment period, said eighth-grader Veronica Hein, is when they have a chance to do community service projects, and the food drive is perfect for that.
One change this year is that competition among Lourdes students is gone.
“We really wanted to make it a community project,” Veronica said. “Instead of it being first grade against second grade (for example), we wanted to donate as a community and work together.”