The Press Newspaper
The 620 students and staff at Starr Elementary School in Oregon was very busy this year collecting food for the Oregon Health and Welfare Advisory Committee’s annual Christmas Basket Program.
In fact, the Starr Bulldogs, with their teammates, The Angry Birds, collected so much that the school was left with a real mountain of food.
According to Principal Jennifer Conkle, the theme for this year’s annual food drive, held Dec. 6-16, was “Angry Birds,” which is a widely popular puzzle video game where players control a flock of birds that are trying to retrieve eggs from a group of hungry pigs.
“We wanted to make sure that King Pig did not keep all of the food and canned goods to himself,” Conkle said. “The kids really took to it and it is just overwhelming how much food they brought in.”
Students received one ticket for each food item they brought in, Conkle said. Student council collected different kinds of food each day, including soups, canned meats, cereal, fruits and vegetables, meals in boxes and bags, cake mixes and peanut butter and jelly.
The school also collected toys.
“Each morning, student council members drew one winning name from all of the tickets turned in the day before,” she explained. “The student whose name was drawn then got to play a special Angry Birds game to win an envelope with either $2, $5 or $10.”
Conkle gave credit to Mary McGill, a teacher who organized the food drive.
“She just did a wonderful job organizing this event,” Conkle said. “The amount of food we received is just unbelievable. Every day we would receive a ton of food. We have 50-75 boxes filled with canned and boxed foods.”
Conkle said Starr has always been lucky when it comes to getting support from parents and the community.
“We always get such an unbelievable outpouring of support from the community and our parents,” she said. “It is overwhelming how involved and supportive they are of anything we do. They are just so willing to help others.”
Don Charlton, who has served as the school coordinator for the committee, said, “Starr’s food drive produced the neatest and best organized food mountain in the world.”
“McGill is just a wonderful person,” Charlton said. “The whole thing was remarkable. She has headed the program for several years and her enthusiasm and commitment to collecting food to assist others is phenomenal.”
Charlton added that McGill’s organizing efforts really helped with the sorting.
“The food collected was all in sealed up boxes by food item, with the number of cans of each item on the boxes,” Charlton said. “When it came to sorting, I would say it reduced the amount of time by half.”
Bob Marquette, chairman of the committee, said 265 families were helped this year. The food baskets were distributed Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the Water Department.
The committee has organized the program for residents in Oregon, Harbor View, Jerusalem Township, and Curtice for 40 years, Marquette said, adding the entire school system gets involved.
The committee also spent another $6,000 on toiletries, paper goods, laundry soaps, and other items that those on the SNAP program cannot purchase. The group also purchased fresh meat to add to the baskets.
“The money is collected from individuals, businesses and VFW Posts,” Marquette said, adding that tax dollars are not spent on the program. “I would say that we ended up with 3,000 pounds of food. We were able to also buy orange juice, eggs and other items.”
Lee Williams House of Meats donated meat and Bay Park Community Hospital donated 30 turkeys, Marquette said. Jack's Superette, in Curtice, collected toys and Yeeha’s Buckin’ Bar and Grill took in canned and boxed goods as a cover charge one evening, he said. Matthews Ford donated a van for the committee to use to transport the donations as well as provide people to help distribute the baskets.
“There are a lot of people who go out of their way to help someone else have a nice Christmas,” Marquette said. We have a community that really cares about one another.”
Although the number of needy families applying for the baskets rose from 240 last year, Marquette said he believes there are countless others in the community who may not have known about the program or who were too embarrassed to seek help.
“There are a lot of people out of work out there,” he said. “There are a lot of people who do not come out who would qualify for help.”
Charlton said the total amount of food and toys collected this year was significantly higher than last year.
“We have 150 children who will be receiving toys this year, Charlton said. “I have to say that Clay High School’s toy collection was amazing and Julie Felder, a guidance counselor, did a great job as well.”