NEWARK, AR (KAIT) – For the first time, students at theCedar Ridge School District will have off the entire week for the Thanksgivingholiday.
While students welcomed the change, at least one staffmember had concerns.
The Newark Elementary School counselor, Rita Wycough, worriedthat 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 theweekends. That's several meals that the children could miss if we don't providethis food," Wycough said. "Many times, they depend on school lunches as theirmain meal, so we just want to ensure that they all have full stomachs."
Those students and their families, however, have no reasonto worry now. That's because Wycough and two student groups have organized aholiday food drive for the second year.
"We love our students, every one of them," Wycough said. "They'respecial, and we just want to do all we can to help them."
During the next two weeks, she has challenged every class tobring as many different food items to school as they can. Every morning, membersof 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 withthat," Wycough said. "There won't be any great prize or anything, but it'sself-satisfaction knowing that you've helped someone."
The food list for donations is fairly generic, but administratorshope the kids will keep a few things in mind before they bring anything toschool.
"We have asked for really any type of foods but mainly foodsthat they would enjoy at their Thanksgiving," Wycough said. "We want it to be aspecial Thanksgiving for the students and families."
"We will welcome any type food – any canned item, driedbeans, rice, dried milk, potatoes, potato flakes and things like that – just anytype 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 servedaround 30 families. This time, she has sent out letters to all the local churchesasking 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 theones that are in their class that really need it," said Shawn Craig, theelementary school's dean of students. "Times are tough, and anything that wecan do to help out the needy families in Cedar Ridge, it's awesome just to beable to do that."
The food drive ends on November 20. Students and teacherswill then distribute boxes of food on November 21 and 22 to any family that submitsa form requesting one.
"We don't have any income guidelines because any child that'shungry needs food," Wycough said. "I know sometimes you may think you make alot of money, but when you pay your bills, you have no money left. I have noincome guidelines on this. It's just for whoever feels like they need the food."
The school hopes thefood drive will not only assure that kids will get fed, but that the studentswill learn a valuable lesson.
"I hope that they will receive the joy of giving and notgetting," Wycough said. "I think they need to learn benevolence. I think it'san extremely important character trait. I think it needs to be instilled inyoung children, so they can carry through and teach their children."
If anyone is interested in donating to the food drive orwould like to learn more information, they should call the Newark ElementarySchool at 870-799-8691.