CROWN POINT | There was plenty of holiday cheer spread around last week at St. Mary Catholic Community School thanks to Christmas programs and holiday treats, but also in the mounds and mounds of food piled high in the main hallway.
Students and faculty members were hard at work since November trying to collect 10,000 nonperishable food items. On Dec. 16, the Student Council was still about 700 items short of its goal. With monetary donations from students and teachers rolling in that morning, however, Student Council members and eighth-graders headed to local stores and were able to purchase close to 800 items, putting them just over their goal.
With a final total of 10,048 items, half of the items were loaded into parent Erik Schneider's truck from Hometown Appliances and delivered by students to the Catholic Charities office in downtown Gary. The other half, nearly 3,500 pounds of food, was delivered to God's Groceries, St. Mary's parish food pantry.
“We are so excited that we reached our goal," Student Council President Jenna Thomas said. "All of our hard work has paid off, and it is amazing to be able to help our community members. We appreciate all of the help and support from the St. Mary’s families and local businesses.”
As an incentive for reaching their 10,000-item goal, St. Mary Principal Tom Ruiz promised to kiss a cow brought to school by local dairy farmer Dave Kleine and his daugher, Janny.
Thursday, Ruiz kept his word and kissed a cow in front of an all-school assembly that continued with performances by eighth-grade cheerleaders and an appearance by the schools Wildcat mascot, "Scratch." As a surprise, the Student Council also rented sumo suits and had sumo wrestling matches and races between some of the teachers.
“The assembly went extremely well, but the most rewarding experience this week was seeing students, teachers, and community members come together to help those in need. I am very proud of the Student Council members. They counted and organized items every day during lunch and even created a music video to promote the food drive. It is inspiring to see teenagers so enthusiastic about helping others,” said Student Council moderator Ali Bickel.
For the students and teachers, the annual food drive is a reminder of what truly matters during the Christmas season.