De Soto teams up to feed hungry
Sorting a shipment of donations from Starside Elementary School kept Frances Lawhead and a handful of De Soto High School boys busy Friday afternoon at the De Soto Multi-Service Center food pantry.
"We were out of dry beans -- gosh I'm glad to see those," Lawhead said, pulling an armload of bean-filled bags from one box and making a new spot for them on one of the pantry shelves.
Behind her, boys tossed canned food of all varieties through the air, using a modified assembly line method to direct items to their proper places.
Filling the pantry with dried beans and more at Thanksgiving time is a community effort. Contributions of food and money from De Soto schools, churches, businesses and individuals have provided food for those in need to er places.
Filling the pantry with dried beans and other sundries at Thanksgiving time is a community effort. Contributions of food and money from De Soto schools, churches, businesses and individuals have provided food for those in need to pick up this week for a holiday meal.
Lawhead said it was important for the pantry to bring in lots of donations during the holidays. Customers need food for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the supply must also help keep the pantry stocked all year.
Traditionally one of the city's biggest food drives, Starside's campaign brought in more than 3,000 items this year, said school counselor Paula Henderson. Not bad, she said, for a school with 500 students.
Henderson said friendly competitions helped fuel donations during the two-week drive.
"We ran all kinds of contests with it to kind of assure the success," she said. "There is a graph that I keep updated daily that is right outside where they line up to go into the cafeteria. And, of course, they all have to check that every day to see how their class is doing."
Multi-Service Center coordinator Jodi Hitchcock even came for a cameo on Starside's morning announcements one day, asking for help by using a familiar nursery rhyme.
"She said she felt like Old Mother Hubbard who went to the cupboard, and the cupboard was bare," Henderson said. "And I challenged our students to fill that cupboard."
Also a challenge for even those with the best of intentions, Henderson said, was remembering.
"It's not if they will bring something," she said. "It's 'How do I remember to bring something?'"
Schools all over the district, including those in Shawnee, donated food from their respective drives to the De Soto pantry.
In addition to the regular non-perishable food items, several campaigns helped provide whole turkeys or money for utility bills.
De Soto High School student council members recently donated food from "Trick or Treat so Kids Can Eat," a door-to-door drive they did last month.
Huhtamaki Americas, Inc., also has a seasonal donation drive for the pantry.
"We call it the Huhtamaki Turkey Drive," said Melanie Bockwinkel, a representative of the company's activities committee.
Bockwinkel said the company usually gathered monetary donations from employees but this year the drive included canned food as well.
Huhtamaki donated more than 100 food items and more than $200, which will be used to purchase turkeys or utility vouchers for those in need, Bockwinkel said.