During World War II, American youngsters helped on the home front with scrap metal drives that helped make everything from armaments to tin cans.
Now, in the midst of a seemingly never-ending recession, local kids are playing an important role in helping put food into the bellies of suffering people in Manatee County.
The Salvation Army would not want to contemplate its prospects without the help of 27 Manatee County elementary schools, which contributed thousands of canned food items.
Ellen Potrikus, social services manager for the Salvation Army, said donations are down this year. The drive, from Nov. 2 to Dec. 4, collected about 81 percent of what it did last year.
Even so, there will be enough to help the hungry into next year.
Businesses also helped with the collection, but the largest amount came from the elementary schools, and children in Myakka, Palmetto, Parrish, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Oneco and elsewhere.
In an e-mail from Monica Rice, guidance counselor at Gullett Elementary, I learned the school collected 1,848 canned food items.
“We had two classrooms that competed with one another until the final count, with Mrs. Meckley’s fifth-grade classroom bringing in 399 cans and the other classroom — Mrs. Huber’s third-grade classroom — collecting 380 cans. These were our top classrooms,” Rice said.
A single student, Collin Herbert brought in 265 of those cans. Collin asked his family members to help and they brought canned goods to their Thanksgiving feast. In addition, his aunt who owns a beauty parlor put a box in her shop for collections.
Another student, Victoria Lapek, brought in 295 cans bought with winnings her father received from a game at work. Instead of using the money for his family, they purchased goods for the drive, Rice said.
At Braden River Elementary School, the Student Council sponsored a food drive that collected 1,672 cans, said Kathy Keebler, school secretary.
Chuck Fradley, principal of Wakeland Elementary, said students at his school conducted a drive to assist homeless people with toiletries and blankets, and then took part in the canned food drive.
There are lessons just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic children will pick up on.
“Our school is highlighting the character trait of kindness for the month of December and this food drive was a way for us to conduct a school wide project exemplifying kindness,” Monica Rice said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.