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A Fun Holiday Food Drive at Rural Hall Elementary
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
NOVEMBER 19, 2021 – All week long, students and their families at Rural Hall Elementary have been bringing in food for the school’s food pantry.
School Counselor Patti Durham, who organized the Food Drive Challenge with Thanksgiving coming up, added a big dose of fun to the project by announcing that on the final day of the drive – Friday Nov. 19 – they would line up all the cereal boxes collected like dominoes, and the teacher of the winning class would have the honor of starting the cereal box domino cascade.
As it turned out, students in the kindergarten class in which Katie Chunn is the teacher and Heather Johnson is the teacher assistant won by bringing in 1,023 food items.
“We have really great families who want to support others,” Chunn said.
The contribution from Braxton Chatham’s family had much to do with Chunn’s class winning. They brought in 300 items. Braxton was happy to participate.
“We give it to other people who don’t have food,” Braxton said.
Braxton’s grandmother Nannie makes a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, and Braxton is especially looking forward to the turkey, mashed potatoes, and green beans.
The line of cereal box dominoes down the length of the hall down the width of the school was quite impressive.
How many boxes was it?
Well, when Durham and others first did a count on Friday morning as they were getting ready, the total came to 310. More cereal boxes kept coming in, though. The total soon surpassed 350 boxes, and, when it was time for Chunn to start the cascade, there could have been as many boxes as days in a year.
Winning classes in other grade levels had the honor of lining up along the hall so they could watch the boxes tipping over. When asked – for fun – whether they could eat all the cereal in every single box, an impressive number of students said that, yes, they could.
Several students in Jodi Sparks third grade class said they could do it, and all but a few students in Ashley Piper’s first grade class said they were sure they could eat it all.
Sparks smiled and said, “I’m sure they could, too. They have big appetites.”
This food drive was combined with Spirit Week at Rural Hall, and, on different days, students had such options as wearing pajamas, tacky clothes, and sunglasses with hats.
It all made for a wonderful week, said Principal Shannon Boles.
“This week has been amazing seeing our school community step up to the challenge in order to provide for our Rural Hall families,” Boles said.
“Our students have enjoyed the spirit of the competition among the grade levels, and they have had fun dressing up to entertain each other during the day. The support and love for our food drive truly touches the lives of many within our school family.”
“As always, go Bulldogs!”
Others also spoke about how impressed they were by students and their families.
Jessica Baker is the speech therapist at Rural Hall.
“It’s been amazing,” Baker said. “The kids – the parents – have really shown up for this.”
Taylor Cook teaches first grade.
“It’s very kind-hearted of our community and students to bring in so much food,” Cook said.
Earlier in the morning, Durham’s tally for total contributions was 4,496. That climbed as more boxes of cereal and other items came in.
Some families had contributed amazing amounts of food.
Eli Loftus is a student in Johnna Warlow’s Exceptional Children class. Eli’s mother, Eliesha Cruz, works at the Food Lion in Rural Hall, and managers at Food Lion donated 267 items.
Rural Hall participates in the BackPack program, which provides food for students for weekends and school breaks. With Thanksgiving coming up, in addition to food collected through the student food drive, Rural Hall has been able to put together 16 official Thanksgiving dinners that include turkeys.
“I would like to acknowledge all of the teachers and staff for their constant support for our students and families,” Durham said.
“I would also like to recognize Heather Vestal and Monica Douglass two of our PTA volunteers for helping me to deliver the 134 food bags each week.”
“We could not feed our students without everyone's support. I would also like to recognize the Missional Network of Churches for providing our weekly food bags.”
“This event means so much to me, seeing and hearing the students' responses that receive the food on a weekly basis encourages me to continue to work as hard as I do for them. I have always believed that making sure we can help students overcome basic need obstacles help support students' academic success.”
“Thank you to all the families that donated to our food pantry.”
For students in the winning classes, there was more celebrating to come. The official prize for the winning classes was the opportunity to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving while munching popcorn later in the day.
The winning classes, along with the number of items contributed, are:
Kindergarten: Katie Chunn – 1,023
First Grade: Ashley Piper – 161
Second Grade: Rose Ann Throckmorton – 250
Third Grade: Jodi Sparks – 315
Fourth Grade: Sara Schaefer – 476
Fifth Grade: Cynthia Parker – 337
Exceptional Children: Johnna Warlow – 419