Students in spirit of giving

The season for giving is here, and students throughout Washington County have been doing their part to help support local charities with a variety of fundraisers and food drives.

Balls were flying across the Marietta High School gym Tuesday morning as teams from the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes competed in a dodgeball tournament for charity and the coveted “golden wrench” award.

The freshman team walked away with the top prize, but no one was disappointed as the annual game, sponsored by the school’s Students Against Drunk Driving group, was played to benefit the local Gospel Mission Food Pantry.

“Students just have to give a donation to come in and watch the game every year,” said S.A.D.D. member and senior Ashton Wisenbarger.

The group has also collected other monetary donations and conducted a food drive for the pantry over the last week.

“Last year we had over 9,000 food items donated, and that supplied the pantry for about three months,” said senior Jillian Schwendeman, also with the S.A.D.D. group.

She noted that some MHS teachers encourage participation in the food and funding drives by offering bonus points to students who bring food donations to class.

Candy and Jeff Waite, who operate the Gospel Mission Food Pantry on Lancaster Street, picked up a couple truckloads of donated food items from MHS Tuesday. They were also presented with nearly $400 in cash, collected by the S.A.D.D. students through the week and during the dodgeball event.

“It’s such a blessing to receive these donations and food for the pantry from the schools,” Candy said. “It’s also encouraging that these kids are becoming involved in helping those most in need from our community.”

She said that need grows every year, and the pantry has been especially busy during the holidays.

“And you never know-someone standing right next to you could be in need of food or clothing,” Candy added.

Tuesday afternoon the Waites also received a check for the pantry in the amount of $347, money raised through the efforts of fourth-graders at Phillips Elementary School.

“My fourth grade class made ‘friendship’ bands and necklaces and sold them to raise money for the Gospel Mission pantry,” said teacher Kylie Robinson.

She said the idea came from an article the children read about a similar fundraiser that was done by a class in the Cincinnati area.

She noted the entire school, including other students, teachers and parents, helped by purchasing the bands and necklaces.

“Once they found out what the money was going for everyone pitched in,” Robinson said. “It was better than we hoped for and the kids were so excited to be helping the pantry.”

Will Hampton, principal at Marietta Middle School, said classes there have been raising money for the Strecker Cancer Center at Marietta Memorial Hospital as well as for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

“The students do a lot of different fundraisers throughout the year, including canned food drives and participating in the annual Coats for Kids clothing drive,” he said. “During our Christmas ceremonies at the school on Friday the classes will be recognized for contributing to the community.”

Hampton said he expects the current fund drives for the cancer center and St. Jude to bring in more than $500 for each of those charities.

On Friday Barlow-Vincent Elementary students sent more than 1,400 food items to the Western Washington County Food Pantry in Vincent.

“Our kindergarten through eighth grade students all participate every year,” said school secretary Trina Yost. “The class that collects the most canned food wins a $25 award. The sixth grade class usually wins, and last year they donated the $25 to the pantry, too.”

Yost noted the school’s parent teacher organization also gets students involved through movie nights with admission being a pair of gloves, mittens, hats, or gently-used coats.

“They collected two large bags of clothing to donate to the pantry,” she said.

Linda Allen, who operates the Western Washington County Food Pantry, said the help the facility receives from local schools is greatly appreciated.

“The need is always great, but more people start coming in when summer is over as their gardens are no longer producing and they need food through the winter months,” she said. “Warren Elementary School brought us food in November, and the FFA group at Warren High has also donated. High school students also deliver the food collected from the local schools.”

Last week a group of high school students at the Washington County Career Center collected $701 for the United Way of Washington County, and another group will be collecting food donations today for the Marietta Community Food Pantry.

“The United Way collection was coordinated by our Interact Club, which is affiliated with the Marietta Morning Rotary Club,” said Mike Elliott, secondary education director at the career center.

He said the annual fundraiser involves a special challenge as an incentive to help encourage student participation.

“The teachers don’t start teaching until they count all of the donated money each day,” Elliott said. “So some of the smarter students bring in a lot of change.”

Evan Schaad, adviser for the WCCC’s National Technical Honor Society group, said today is “hat day” to benefit the Marietta Community Food Pantry.

“We’ve done this in past years, and get pretty high participation from all of the career center students,” he said. “Students who bring in at least two canned food items can wear a hat all day. We raise a few hundred food items for the pantry around Thanksgiving and Christmas time every year. It’s a good opportunity for students to make an impact on the broader community.”