Making Ends Meet

The canned food drive collects nonperishable food items and money for the Johnson County Christmas Bureau


Stella Grist and Bianca Smith

     “CANS, CANS, CANS…,”  Student Council (StuCo) members chant as they collect all the cans and boxes from each fifth hour class. Students and teachers alike smile with pride as they see their donations roll away. 

     Students donated 6,231 food items and $2,647.89 during the two-week drive, from November 4-15. 

     Sophomores Jordan and Shelby Sogaard brought in about 150 cans collectively, after getting excited for the drive. 

     “Me and Shelby are already super competitive, so I feel like we wanted to bring in more cans anyway,” Jordan said. “Also, we have Matthew Wolfe as a teacher.”

     The event benefits the Johnson County Christmas Bureau (JCCB), a local charity helping the community. 

     “It’s really hard to make ends meet right around the holidays every year,” StuCo sponsor Sarah Dent said. “JCCB wants to be able to make that accessible to people in Johnson County. Every year, they’ve been trying to increase the number of people that they help. They’re up to about 14,000 people each year.”

     Planning the food drive starts weeks in advance in order to organize and coordinate every aspect. 

     “StuCo started planning and organizing this four to six weeks ,” Dent said. “We start off by hearing one of the speakers or the director from the Johnson County Christmas Bureau. They talk to all five of the StuCo executive boards the vision about what the Johnson County Christmas Bureau does.”

     Canned food drive chairman Callan Taylor organized the event here. 

     “I coordinate with the district, teachers, students and the fifth-hour classes,” Taylor said. “I talk with the janitorial staff about getting boxes and pallets. We write speeches for our StuCo members to go around to give to the fifth-hour classes. We also have to box and package all the donations we get.”

     To inspire students to give, StuCo promotes the drive as a competition between all fifth-hour classes. The three classes that bring in the most cans get a reward. 

     “More than that, I think it is the competition between teachers,” Taylor said. “We’ve had some rivalries form between Wolfe and Winston. They are always bringing cans in to try to beat each other.”

     But that isn’t the only rivalry between teachers to have risen over the 35 years of partnering with the JCCB. 

     “It has been really funny to see rivalries pop up,” Dent said “Back in the day, Boren and Drew McGwire used to have this huge rivalry. Last year, it was Wolfe and Anthony going back and forth and then Winston kind of jumped into the fray. It’s just really funny to see teachers get excited and start talking smack to other teachers to build up that competition.”

     While Wolfe’s fifth hour won the competition for the medium-sized class category, Wolfe uses the competitive aspect of the food drive as a way to bring in more cans from other classes. 

     “I tell my students that winning is really not the goal,” Wolfe said. “The goal is to get the other classes to step up to provide for those in need. We won and I think that’s great, but in the end, whether we win or lose, the winner is the community.” 

     Although Wolfe’s goal isn’t to win, science teacher Debra Brewer thinks otherwise. This mindset helped her win the competition in the small-sized class category

     “The food drive starts with me telling my kids I never lose the food drive,” Brewer said. “From that moment I am on them every day of the week about bringing in cans. I also do a little bit of a guilt trip with letting them know that the Starbucks coffee they had could have provided the food pantry with 12 cans of food. I tell them for two weeks that they could certainly forego their extravagant choices.”

     Social studies teacher Haley Lukes’ fifth hour class won the competition in the large-sized class category. 

     “The school does a good job of making sure that students understand that it’s more than just a competition,” Lukes said. “StuCo does a really good job with that saying that this is community focused. They make sure that the students know where it’s going to exactly and that it’s benefiting their fellow community members.”

     The most rewarding part of the food drive is dropping all the items off, according to Taylor. 

     “We normally just drop it off, but this year I think I’m going to volunteer at the JCCB after so that I can actually help set it up and see it all the way through,” Taylor said. 

     Dent’s favorite part is seeing the enthusiasm from the entire school surrounding the drive. 

     “Through all the competition and through all the excitement that comes with the drive, at the heart of it, it’s about giving to people,” Dent said. “It’s nice to be able to be in a school that cares that there are people who may not have as much as some and knowing that we’re coming together to support one another.”