District 214 surpasses goal, collects 120,000 cans for area pantries

  • Students at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights box canned food as part of a districtwide food drive that collected more than 120,000 cans this month. The food recently was donated to pantries in the Northwest suburbs.

    Students at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights box canned food as part of a districtwide food drive that collected more than 120,000 cans this month. The food recently was donated to pantries in the Northwest suburbs. Submitted by District 214

  • Students at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights box canned food for the districtwide food drive that collected more than 120,000 cans this month. The effort far surpassed its goal of collecting 100,000 cans for area food pantries.

    Students at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights box canned food for the districtwide food drive that collected more than 120,000 cans this month. The effort far surpassed its goal of collecting 100,000 cans for area food pantries. Submitted by District 214

 
 
Updated 11/26/2014 10:16 AM

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 reached, and surpassed, its ambitious goal of collecting 100,000 cans of food this month as part of the district's centennial celebration.

In total, 120,350 cans were collected and donated to food pantries within District 214 boundaries, as well as to needy families at the district's six high schools and three alternative centers, said Mark Guenther, a Hersey High School teacher and member of the centennial committee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We are so proud to have surpassed our goal and just overwhelmed with the response from the entire community," Guenther said.

To reach that number students had to do more than just bring in leftovers from their pantries.

One of the district's strategies was tagging and bagging -- leaving 20,000 bags donated by Jewel on district resident's doorsteps with information about the drive and a date when they would be back to collect donations, Guenther said.

The collection became almost a competition between classrooms and schools across the 12,000-student district.

"It kind of takes on a life of its own," Guenther said. "But we were all working toward one goal. It was so exciting and unifying as a district to learn from each other and find that sense of sacrifice and generosity."

Cans were stacked up in classrooms, cafeterias and gymnasiums across the district until they were all recently donated to area food pantries. Some schools, including Wheeling High School, put together Thanksgiving food baskets for specific families in need.

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After such success, Guenther said he hopes the district will continue to grow the food drive.

"Our goal as organizers was to start here with a lofty, but reasonable goal," Guenther said. "It was pretty daunting and overwhelming. But we did it. Now, we hope to start building a new community District 214 tradition that can grow and add a little more each year."

The best part of the fundraiser for students was delivering food to area pantries and meet some of the beneficiaries.

"It's very emotional to think that this isn't about just collecting, but to think about the recipients," Guenther said. "To go to the food pantries and see them running on empty and to leave them stocked to the ceiling was incredible. It's hard to put into words, but you can see the real significance in the kids' eyes as they delivered the food, met the recipients and talked to the food pantry directors. It was pretty spectacular."

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