Students at Morris Community High School are putting the needs of others first as the holiday season rolls in.
In November, members of the student council collected canned goods, storage containers, and gift cards, delivering those items to We Care of Grundy County, a food pantry and clothes closet based in Morris, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.
"This year was the first MCHS Cornucopia Competition. We collected a total of 450 items as well as $450 in gift cards to give to We Care of Grundy County," explained senior and student body treasurer Madelyn Knapp, who led the students in the food drive. "We talked about it in the morning announcements and then we had our student council coordinator put it in the teacher announcements, as well as everyone's Google Classroom."
Led by Knapp, student organizers included senior Chloe Ostrem, juniors Drew Smith and Taylor Nelson, sophomores Grace Lines and Libby Wright, and freshmen Ava Ostrem, Natalie Lawton, and Faith Bogard.
"We also tried to get teachers involved too, just so they would spread the word to their students and their classes," Knapp said, adding that the students were simply looking to benefit as many people in the community as possible.
"I've been here before for different events. And, I think it's just important, especially during the holiday season, to teach our school and our community something that they can't learn inside the classroom," she said.
We Care's executive director Eric Fisher said the facility gets donations throughout the year, but it's always special when food drives are spearheaded by local youth.
"It's groups like this, young groups that actually come up with it on their own and do it. We will have that throughout the year, Boy Scouts, or leadership groups, like that," Fisher said.
"People sometimes feel like young people are not engaged in things like this, and obviously it's just not true. We get a lot of support from Morris Community High School, we get a lot of support from just the local kids in general and the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. It is often not the parents pushing them to do it; they just literally come up with it, they do it, they put it together and the do a great job. I feel like we're seeing more and more of that, and it's nice because that's the next generation of folks who actually will take this over," he continued.
Fisher said We Care serves between 200 and 260 families each month. In 2019, We Care has assisted roughly 6,000 individuals.
"Being able to replenish with a variety is nice," he said. "We get what we can get from the Northern Illinois Food Bank and it's great because we can get it for pennies on the dollar, but, when folks do food drives like this, it's great because we get some stuff that we don't normally have access to."
The students collected items for one week, but began organizing the project two months ago. Students said they plan to make the food drive an annual tradition.
"Maddy did a really good job with this project and coming up with it and organizing it, and we're really proud of her," Drew Smith said. "We're going to try and carry on this tradition so it can be a legacy."