Cedar Ridge students help feed classmates for Thanksgiving - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Cedar Ridge students help feed classmates for Thanksgiving

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NEWARK, AR (KAIT) – For the first time, students at the Cedar Ridge School District will have off the entire week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

While students welcomed the change, at least one staff member had concerns.

The Newark Elementary School counselor, Rita Wycough, worried that some students – especially those that depend on their meals at school – might go hungry that week.

"That's like eight days away from school counting the weekends. That's several meals that the children could miss if we don't provide this food," Wycough said. "Many times, they depend on school lunches as their main meal, so we just want to ensure that they all have full stomachs."

Those students and their families, however, have no reason to worry now. That's because Wycough and two student groups have organized a holiday food drive for the second year.

"We love our students, every one of them," Wycough said. "They're special, and we just want to do all we can to help them."

During the next two weeks, she has challenged every class to bring as many different food items to school as they can. Every morning, members of the GAP program and Student Council go door to door collecting food.

"There's a tally sheet on the door of each classroom to let [the students] know how much food they've brought, so we're keeping up with that," Wycough said. "There won't be any great prize or anything, but it's self-satisfaction knowing that you've helped someone."

The food list for donations is fairly generic, but administrators hope the kids will keep a few things in mind before they bring anything to school.

"We have asked for really any type of foods but mainly foods that they would enjoy at their Thanksgiving," Wycough said. "We want it to be a special Thanksgiving for the students and families."

"We will welcome any type food – any canned item, dried beans, rice, dried milk, potatoes, potato flakes and things like that – just any type of food that you would eat," she explained. "Now, if you wouldn't eat it, I wouldn't send it."

She started the holiday food drive last year and served around 30 families. This time, she has sent out letters to all the local churches asking them to get involved, too, so that the school can feed even more.

"It does your heart good to see the kids giving back to the ones that are in their class that really need it," said Shawn Craig, the elementary school's dean of students. "Times are tough, and anything that we can do to help out the needy families in Cedar Ridge, it's awesome just to be able to do that."

The food drive ends on November 20. Students and teachers will then distribute boxes of food on November 21 and 22 to any family that submits a form requesting one.

"We don't have any income guidelines because any child that's hungry needs food," Wycough said. "I know sometimes you may think you make a lot of money, but when you pay your bills, you have no money left. I have no income guidelines on this. It's just for whoever feels like they need the food."

 The school hopes the food drive will not only assure that kids will get fed, but that the students will learn a valuable lesson.

"I hope that they will receive the joy of giving and not getting," Wycough said. "I think they need to learn benevolence. I think it's an extremely important character trait. I think it needs to be instilled in young children, so they can carry through and teach their children."

If anyone is interested in donating to the food drive or would like to learn more information, they should call the Newark Elementary School at 870-799-8691.

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