Students set lofty food drive goal

Youth collect 7,400 cans for Interfaith Food Bank

On the last day of the Craig Middle School's annual canned-food drive, one seventh-grade boy came in asking for a dolly.

Outside, in his mother's car, Mychal Beauchamp had collected more than 500 cans of food. It was a sizeable chunk of the 7,400 cans students at the school brought in.

Beauchamp said he canvassed the neighborhood near his Ridgeview home in the evenings after school, and asked people for donations.

He rode his bike around, and lugged the cans in his backpack. At times, the pack weighed 35 pounds. His mother couldn't even lift it at one point, he said.

The cans he and his fellow students collected will benefit the Interfaith Food Bank and its indigent clients. Some of it will wind up in Thanksgiving baskets.

It was Thanksgiving Beauchamp had in mind when he made his rounds on his bicycle.

"Every year we go to (Grand) Junction and we eat like this really big feast. Why can't these people have something?" he said.

After biking door-to-door through the neighborhood, he scavenged "all the cupboards" at home. Then he went to the grocery store looking for the discount canned goods.

"I got the good ones," he said, making sure to note that he didn't bring the dented cans or poor selections. "There was some good Infamil for babies," he said matter-of-factly, as if it's perfectly normal for a seventh-grader to be aware of the nuances of shopping for baby formula.

The school counselor, Kathy Bockelman was proud of his thoughtfulness.

"That's one of the things that really impressed me about Mychal. He really seemed pretty interested in (bringing food for babies)," Bockelman said.

The school's two-week food drive, which ended Friday, began with a video about homelessness and hunger in America. The video featured a quote by Colin Powell about how each one of us can make a difference.

With a few warnings about safe soliciting, the students were off. As an enticement to bring more food, the school sponsored a competition among the students, who were divided into teams.

The goal was to gather 15,000 cans.

"It was a pretty lofty goal," Bockelman admits. Though the students' donations fell short, they still amassed about 3,200 pounds in non-perishable goods.

Students also were encouraged to bring cash, which is just as good as food for Interfaith, which can use the money to supplement the canned goods with more perishable items for holiday baskets. Each dollar collected counted as three cans of food.

A pair of eighth-grade girls took on the task as a team. Their donations were mostly cash, and they collected the equivalent of 636 cans.

Desirae Pearcey, 13, and Griselda Quezada, 13, took a different approach than Beauchamp. The girls collected some cans near Pearcey's home the first day. Then they went to City Market and stood out front asking shoppers for donations for the food drive.

"Whoever passed by, we asked for donations," Quezada said. The two stayed there for four hours.

Their efforts at the grocery store netted them $160 -- equal to 480 cans. They added the cash to the 156 cans they collected driving around with Pearcey's older brother, Keith.

"I was kinda surprised that he actually drove us around," Pearcey said, adding that it took some persuasion.

The girls admitted that part of their motivation was for the eighth-grade to beat the seventh-grade in the food drive competition. They had a civic goal in mind, too.

"We wanted to do something good for the community," Pearcey said.

One student's motivation was to break her own personal record.

"I bring in 115 cans every year since fifth grade and I wanted to break it," said eighth-grade student Stephanie Pohl, 14.

Pohl went to Safeway, using the same technique as Pearcey and Quezada. But she collected the bulk of her 135 cans while walking her neighborhood on foot.

"I went door-to-door and I usually got about 30 a day," Pohl said.

She said she hopes her donation benefits "the homeless, or people who need it."

Bockelman said that while such activities aren't traditional components of the curriculum, they teach important concepts.

"Kids learn from service," Bockelman said. "It's important that we teach kids to think about other people. It's important to teach empathy."

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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