“One can, two can, who can, you can.” That’s the slogan that hangs in a hallway, Burma-Shave style, as a reminder for Van Alstyne Middle School students to keep the Christian Ministerial Alliance’s Canned Food Drive alive in their thoughts and actions.
The eighth grade students are working to help provide a solid and memorable Thanksgiving for those in the community who may not have one otherwise.
First Christian Church of Van Alstyne’s pastor Shannon Jackson opened up a recent eighth-grade planning session with a police cruiser siren wail that probably could have been heard as far away from the Middle School’s library as the office on the other end of the building. It definitely got the students’ attention.
“What’s your favorite food at Thanksgiving?” he asked the then-attentive students. The responses were similar — string bean casserole, turkey, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes — all of it. Jackson then invited the students to stretch their thoughts further.
“Imagine Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “You wake up, you smell the turkey and ham, smell the dressing. And you know that that afternoon, you and your family are going to get literally all you can eat. You’ll have dinner, turn on the football game, fall asleep, and wake up to eat again.”
Now imagine, you wake up in your home to none of those smells, and you know that, even though it’s Thanksgiving Day, you won’t have a traditional meal,” he continued. “Not because you don’t want one, but because your family can’t afford it.”
Pastor at Elmont Baptist Church Steve Bogran talked to the wide-eyed group about an experience he’d had as a child.
“It’s hard sometimes to think about others, especially when you are hungry,” he said. “… On Thanksgiving Day, my mom made the whole meal. I was maybe 7 years old. All set to sit down to dinner, and my dad said, ‘We’re taking this food to somebody else.’ ‘But, I’m hungry,’ I whined. We took the complete meal to a family whose mom and dad had lost their jobs, and it was a great time.”
Bogran continued, “Don’t just think about yourselves, think about others. There are people with homes not knowing what they would be eating — maybe a sandwich or nothing at all on Thanksgiving Day. I want to challenge you to do this (food drive) from the heart and enjoy it. To know that you guys, by donating whatever you can, can bring joy to others. During the holidays, it’s pretty hard to think about somebody else who wants and needs help. Remember, these are people in my neighborhood, my town, sometimes even in my family.”
Jackson learned that, as of that meeting, there had been 87 cans of food raised, and there were about 30 days between the start of the drive and the Nov. 16 school deadline. With that in mind, he led them through setting their own goal, determining just how many cans they wanted to collect for the Ministerial Alliance. First, it was two cans per each of the 500 students at the school, or 1,000 cans total. But the students determined that was too low.
“How about making it 2,500 cans?” Jackson said.
Many hands went up, and that was set as a goal.
“You guys are about to become huge decision-makers,” Jackson said. “You already are, but even more so by taking care of other people’s needs as well. ‘Gratitude is when what you have is enough.’”
Raeley Thompson, one of the project’s publicity team members, said his job is alert area residents and the media to the students’ goal.
“Our job is to notify the whole community about what is going on, including the Nov. 16 deadline,” Thompson said.
Other publicity team members Natalia Herrera and Makenna Dancer explained that people can bring their canned food, or other non-perishable contributions to the middle school’s front office, or to either of the speakers’ churches or other churches involved.
Izzy Chartier explained that Van Alstyne is more of a family-type community.
“We should not be selfish if we have more than we need,” Chartier said. “We need to be thankful for what we have. What we are doing helps.”
Aimee Baldwin added that involvement in the Canned Food drive is an eigth-grade tradition.
“We knew it helps out our community and we (the class) wanted to do it again this year,” Aimee said.
Charlotte Thomas, another member of the Publicity Team, agreed.
“It’s depressing and sad that some people go through that (going hungry on Thanksgiving), but with this canned food drive, I know other people can have a good Thanksgiving. It’s like knowing that people care for you.”
The distribution team will sort the cans out, add them up and make graphs showing which grades gave what amounts, the team said. This will be visible in the hallway, so everyone can be proud of their grade’s accomplishments. Then, they will turn the cans over to the Ministerial Alliance.
The young ladies weren’t quite sure how the families would also receive turkey and the perishable items, but said and hoped there were a couple of sponsors who could supply those, but they knew this had come up and the churches will be making that possible.
For now, they said their hope the public will remember to also become involved.