The middle school’s Beta Club was one of the many local organizations collecting and distributing food donations for local residents who might be feeling the economic squeeze this holiday season.
The Beta Club is an academic organization for students with excellent grades. Club members also involve themselves in humanitarian and school pride endeavors.
“It’s tough for many people right now,” Beta Club secretary Larry Morris said. “Maybe they had a job but have lost it. This helps ease the burden a little for families during Thanksgiving.”
Each year the club sponsors a holiday food drive that also functions as a competition. The class from each grade level collecting the most donations is rewarded with a pizza party.
Classes at the middle school began collecting non-perishable food items as early as the beginning of the school year and continued through November 17.
Donations came from students, parents, teachers and some area sponsors such as the Walmart Distribution Center, which this year gave 348 of the 2000 cans of food collected and a dozen frozen turkeys.
Beta Club members helped sort food and created holiday baskets for selected recipients in need. Each basket also contained items like flour, oil and sugar for preparing other dishes. Leftover food items were passed on to the Samaritan food bank on US 90.
Club members say they believe the food drive is a worthwhile project.
“It’s important to be involved,” Brook Chambers, the club’s vice president, said.
“Some people just don’t have the food they need and you feel bad for them and just want to help,” said club treasurer Rachel Price.
“When you see their smiles, you get a good feeling,” added Colton Yeager, who serves as the club’s chaplain.
Club president Mary Elledge said, “It’s good to be able to help out less fortunate families. And we had fun doing it.”
Food drives were held at all the county’s schools this year — some to benefit particular families and others to help the community as a whole.
Keller Intermediate School’s students collected 2251 nonperishable food items, which Amy Stavley, guidance secretary, said was the most collected in the six years she’s been there.
The drive took place between October 31 and November 10. The food was donated to the Samaritan food bank.
At Macclenny Elementary, a two-week canned food drive began November 1 to benefit five needy families with students at the school.
School secretary Cathy Fletcher said one student donated 98 items and enough was collected overall to fill five boxes for each of the five families to receive Thanksgiving food packages.
“We have a lot,” she said.
The Baker County Kiwanis Club is taking donations to supply packages for five additional needy families with students enrolled at Macclenny Elementary.
The club is sponsoring Thanksgiving meal boxes for five families from each school in Baker County, plus more than a dozen from clients of the Baker County Health Department.
Turkeys for the meals were donated by Walmart Distribution Center.
Pastor Tony Green of Living World of Christ Worship Center also donated bread, desserts and other foodstuffs to Macclenny Elementary for distribution to the adopted families.
Students at Westside Elementary wrapped up their Thanksgiving food drive November 14, donating 325 nonperishable holiday food items to the Samaritan food bank.
School secretary Annette Barton said students “gave from the heart” this year rather than structure the drive as a competition like in previous years.
The PreK-Kindergarten Center held their holiday food drive during the first two weeks of November as well, collecting nonperishable and canned goods for donation to the food bank.
At Baker County High School, principal Thomas Hill hosted a Clash of the Classes and awarded the freshmen the “Spirit Stick” for collecting the most food donations.
BCHS students gathered enough food to fully fill a truck bed with canned goods and six grocery carts with other food. They also collected 13 turkeys or hams.
Many teachers gave extra credit and other incentives as part of the high school’s food drive, which was sponsored largely by the school’s business and health occupations academies and spearheaded by teacher Stephanie Wheeler.
Pastor Mitch Rhoden of Samaritan estimated the food will feed some 1200 families.
The donations were paraded from the school to the food bank just east of Wildcat Drive.
Joel Addington and Jim McGauley contributed to this story.