Students cheer up the holidays for the needy

"Waiting to load up their school's haul of 3,285 donated canned goods, Langley Middle School students (from left) Lucy Brennan, Marissa Wilhelm, Ariel Schmidtke, and Key Simmons are just a few of the hundreds of South Whidbey students who make the holidays cheerier for many local families.Matt Johnson / staff photoEvery year, when the holiday season rolls around, cars and trucks full of food start to roll up to the Good Cheer food bank in Langley.At the wheel of many of those vehicles are South Whidbey High School students or parents and teachers of younger South Whidbey students. And in the back of those cars and trucks are boxes upon boxes filled with food collected by local students.Next to South Whidbey grocery stores, these students are perhaps the most important donors to South Whidbey's food bank. Last year, donations from the high school, middle school and elementary schools topped $12,500 in market value. Collected in each classroom leading up to the holidays, the donated food prevents about 200 local families from going hungry during the winter and keeps Good Cheer's shelves full.Brenda Thorn, manager of the food bank and Good Cheer's thrift store operation, said that without the school donations, Good Cheer would have to use cash to buy at least that much food to keep local families supplied during the winter.It saves us that much in what we have to purchase, Thorn said.After setting donation records last year, the schools are pushing hard again this year. Langley Middle School dropped off almost 3,300 food items last week, while the high school's Key Club is trying to get 7,000 items together by Dec. 1.Key Club president and South Whidbey senior Leah Von Pressintin said the school got off to a slow start for this year's food drive. Last year, the school collected more than 6,000 items, so the Key Club set a higher goal for this year's drive. But by Wednesday, the school had less than half that much to drop off at Good Cheer. Von Pressintin said she and other Key Clubbers are putting the pressure on now because many families depend on the success of the drive. To make the goal, each high school student needs to donate 10 to 15 food items.It's really not that much when it comes down to it, Von Pressintin said. I think now the kids are grasping that this is serious.And, if not, they can always concentrate on the payoff. The first-period class that collects the most food will get a pizza lunch or an ice-cream party during class time.Brenda Thorn said she hopes donations do not dip this year. Even though the good economy has made it possible for many families to forego the food bank this year, Good Cheer still needs to keep its stock high. For Thanksgiving alone, the food bank gave out turkeys and boxes of food to more than 140 families. The nonprofit organization needs to be ready to do it all over again for Christmas.We don't turn down anyone, she said. "

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