Annual Spencer food drive teaches kids to be thankful
Thanksgiving is a time when families come together to share the things they have and show appreciation for the good things that have come their way. At the Spencer Elementary School, the time of Thanksgiving also gives them the opportunity to express the spirit of giving and thankfulness in an even more meaningful way: by raising money and food donations for the community’s food pantry.
Throughout the month of November, all the grades at the Spencer Elementary School have been collecting donations for the King’s Community Food Pantry as part of the school’s Annual Food Drive. The nearly month-long event culminated to a peak before the Thanksgiving holiday when the fifth-grade class stopped by grocery stores in Abbotsford to purchase food on Nov. 21 and when the food was compiled and delivered to the food pantry — located in the basement of Christ the King Catholic Church — on Nov. 22.
“That’s our biggest food drive,” said Joyce Abegglen, one of the main volunteers at the food pantry. “It really helps out a lot, we don’t have to spend as much. I spend about $2,000 per month on food (regularly). With the food drive we don’t have to spend as much. We get a very good variety of food from this.”
The Annual Food Drive held by the students has a very long history at Spencer. According to district administrator Mike Endreas and elementary principal Jill Schulz, the event has been held for more than 20 years.
“I’ve been here for more than 20 years, it was kind of handed down to us from the past administration,” said Endreas. “It’s easily over 20 years old.”
“It was going on when my daughter was in elementary,” added Schulz. “She’s 29 now.”
Although the event has had some changes over its many years of activity, Endreas said the goal of the Annual Food Drive has always remained the same: to support the community. As a native of Spencer with a special connection to the food pantry in the village, this event by the school has always been important to him.
“It’s been a way for our students to give support to the community, a sense of giving,” he said. “This is personal to me as my dad was part of the group that started the food pantry here in Spencer, so it’s personal to support it.”
There are a few different elements that make up the Annual Food Drive. For most of the students, they bring in different
CHEYENNE THOMAS/STAFF PHOTO food items and monetary donations to their class and hold a competition between the grades to see which class can bring in the most items. Schulz said the competition really heats up during the last week of the drive when the students feel the crunch.
“The other grades (kindergarten through fourth grade) have a competition to see who can bring in the most, the winner gets to decide a movie reward,” she said.
For the fifth-grade class, the drive operates a little differently. Schulz said the class aims more towards raising money during the drive, bringing in funds donated by parents or even raised on their own. Before the end of the drive, the students go out as a class and shop for items to be donated to the food pantry.
“The parents donate money and the students break into teams of three or four to buy items,” said Schulz. “The teacher has been teaching them, ‘What is the better deal?’ We always used to go to the grocery store here in Spencer, now we’re going up to Abbotsford.”
Even some of the students in the high school get in on some of the action. Endreas said that once the drive has ended, a group of students from the Spencer National Honor Society help take the food to Christ the King Church and help sort the items with the food pantry volunteers.
“They sort it all into boxes. It helps the people at the food pantry so there’s no re-sorting that they have to do,” he said. “The National Honor Society students haul the food to the food pantry.”
In total, Schulz said the students collected 3,755 items this year, the highest amount that has been raised in a few years. The donations varied widely, from pastas and canned foods to paper products and laundry detergent. With the variety, Abegglen said the food pantry will be able to continue to help families in need, especially with the holidays around the corner.
“It helps a lot,” she said. “We help between eight to 20 families per week. Most are retired people, their Social Security checks don’t reach far enough. They pay rent and medicine and don’t have enough for food. Once in a while we get two big families, they have eight kids. It really has picked up (with the holidays), we had eight families we were helping a few weeks ago, last week we helped 15.”
Schulz said all the effort shown by the kids each year during the Annual Food Drive wouldn’t be possible without the work put into the drive by the teachers and parents in the district. Giving from what they have, she said they teach the students by example and inspire them to do more as they grow older. Through their efforts, the students really come to understand the importance of giving.
“The staff really take ownership of this, they often bring in their own items. They really lead by example … The staff, we couldn’t do it without them. And the parents, we wouldn’t be successful if the parents didn’t support them. It’s kind of one of the highlights of the year,” she said. “The older they (the students) get, the number of things they raise increases every year the kids are in school.”
Along with learning the value of giving, Endreas said the Annual Food Drive also teaches the students how to appreciate the things they have and to support the community. By supporting the community they come from, he said they are able to see for themselves the positive infl uence they can have on others, teaching them that they can be the next leaders and volunteers in the community.
“We’re trying to really give back to the community. One thing comes to mind is the role this plays, it’s a big deal and keeps the food pantry going on a year-to-year basis. If we stopped, it would hurt the food pantry,” he said. “We get to see the first-hand of our labor. A lot of these kids take for granted what they have, I have met people who were excited just for a can of corn. They (the students) should be thankful for everything they have.”
The Spencer Elementary School fifth-grade class (above) displays the more than 3,700 items it collected during this year’s Thanksgiving food drive. The items have all been delivered to the King’s Community Food Pantry. At right, Keegan Strasser carries a box of donated food. The annual food drive has been happening in Spencer for more than 20 years.
CHEYENNE THOMAS/STAFF PHOTOS