It was right on time.
A week before Thanksgiving, the Multicultural Education Center received a surprise: 2,200 canned and dry food items, donated by students at AM Story Intermediate School.
The center relies on donations and volunteers to provide emergency food to hundreds of families each year.
So MCEC director Betty Nickerson was happy to get a call Wednesday from Stacy Carr, a teacher at AM Story Intermediate School, offering some canned goods collected by the students.
But Carr's call did not prepare MCEC volunteers for the deluge of food that arrived Thursday morning. Nickerson, who has directed the center for more than 35 years, said she hadn't seen that much donated food in a long time.
The food arrived about 8 a.m. Thursday, when Stacy Carr, a teacher at AM Story; and Cambree Carr, her daughter and a student, delivered the food in the bed of a pickup truck. The food was collected by members of the K-Klub, a junior Kiwanis organization that promoted the drive at AM Story.
Larissa Loveless, spokesperson for Palestine schools, said students made this year's food drive successful. AM Story has roughly 725 students in the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grades, as well as more than 100 employees. Roughly 70% of the school's students come from economically disadvantaged homes.
“We are an extremely giving community,” Loveless said. “It's unreal how these kids take care of each other.”
Carr, one of the K-Kids sponsors, said the club's 25-30 students did a good job of promoting the canned food drive. “I was proud of our K-Kids,” she said. “And I was proud of our students for donating so many items.”
A contest among the students also helped. The classes that collected the most cans in each grade won a pizza party.
When the goods arrived at the center Thursday morning, eight volunteers helped move items out of the truck, while others sorted the food throughout the day, arranging it on the food pantry's barren shelves.
The drive was sponsored by K-Kids at AM Story, a junior group sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.
Nickerson is grateful for the students' efforts. “They’re teaching the kids how to give back,” she said.
The food won't stay at the center long. Many of the canned goods will go to local families in 125 Thanksgiving baskets. The dry and canned food items will accompany turkeys, hams, and chickens donated before the holiday.
Brookshires donated dozens of turkeys; Sanderson Farms donated chickens; and Walmart Distribution Center donated money used to purchase hams.
Nickerson was amazed by the volume of items donated. “I’ve never seen students do this much before,” she said. “I'm thankful that nobody will be hungry this holiday.”
MCEC has already donated chickens and turkeys to the Elkhart Volunteer Fire Department and first responders, the Palestine Fire Department, and the Palestine Police Department. They also donated food to more than 50 households at the Mill Run Circle Apartments and to kitchens of local churches.
Nickerson enjoys giving to others. “With so much tragedy in the world, it’s good to pass on blessings to others.”
Nickerson said some of the less appetizing items, like lentils and dried beans, will go to the Stockpot, which adds them to soups and other dishes. MCEC also received more canned applesauce and pumpkin, but these items also will go to Stockpot for use in desserts.
All donated food items will be used.
“We’re doing what God has called us to do – to give whatever we can give and to be a blessing to others,” Nickerson said.