Collecting cans and boxes of food for needy people or food pantries isn’t unusual. Dozens of FFA chapters and other organizations across Indiana deserve a tip of the cap for doing so.
Then there is the Crothersville FFA Toy and Food Drive. Linda Myers, Crothersville FFA ag instructor and FFA advisor, notes that the chapter just completed its 30th annual toy and food drive. She’s been a driving force behind every one.
But it’s not just longevity that makes the event unique. It’s how they do it, and how many people they serve, that sets it apart. Nearly all chapter members are involved, plus alumni going back well over a decade; add in help from other people and businesses, and it’s an event like none other.
The total amount of food distributed this year was a record, Myers says. “We distributed over 15 tons of food to 98 families in the community. Families with children also received toys. And we delivered 80 fruit baskets to shut-ins.”
Fifteen tons — that’s 30,000 1-pound boxes of cereal or stuffing mix. It’s 6,000 5-pound bags of flour or sugar. Of course, no one received just one thing. Food items distributed included a variety of goods so people could make healthy meals. Each family also received eggs and other fresh items, Myers reports.
This effort begins long before the Christmas holiday. The FFA chapter hosts various events during the year to raise money to buy food. These events range from grilling and selling porkburgers at community and school events to a giving tree where people pledge to donate money toward food.
Once school is dismissed for Christmas break, FFA members and volunteers fill the halls of Crothersville High School with long rows of boxes of food, Myers explains.
“We break it up into four categories, depending on if it’s an individual or how many people are in a family,” she says. “An individual might get a couple of egg boxes of food. Large families usually get seven or eight boxes. We provide as much food as possible, so it lasts well beyond the holiday season.”
While some members and volunteers fill food boxes, others prepare bags of toys for distribution. Still others make sure fruit baskets are ready to go.
“We buy fruit from Brownstown Central FFA, and students in one of my classes learn as they prepare baskets,” Myers says.
Karley Gillis, current Crothersville FFA sentinel, and Jerrica Barron, chapter reporter, were very active on the night food was sorted into boxes this year. “We make sure that everyone gets what they’re supposed to have,” Gillis says. “Once you do this, you realize that it really is a big deal.”
Adds Barron, “It takes every member that can be here and lots of alumni to pull this off. We’re usually here from right after school until late at night.”
Typically, the Saturday before Christmas is when the fruits of their labor pay off. Members of the local fire department and students divide into teams to deliver food, toys and fruit baskets. Only Myers and the fire chief know the identities of recipients.
Using fire trucks and other vehicles, volunteer firefighters and students work side by side to make deliveries. It’s a sight that is hard to describe, Myers notes.
The entire process leaves an impression on students, FFA alumni and community members. “Until you go deliver food and experience it, it’s hard to describe what it feels like to help others,” says Jamy Greathouse, a former student who is now a parent. “Once you see the emotion of people receiving help, it gives you a special feeling. Now I get to do it with my daughter. It’s come full circle.”
Laura Bradford, Indiana FFA state treasurer from Crothersville in 2006-07, returned to help sort food on collection night this year. “It’s just something that you want to be part of when you can,” Bradford says. “I was happy I could be here and help the tradition live on.”
Denise Maxie, Myers’ daughter, also helps with the drive. “It takes a huge amount of effort from a lot of people, both when we sort and deliver food, and all year long,” Maxie says. “But it’s something we all feel good about doing.”
To see photos from this year’s event, click through the slideshow below.