WATERLOO — Every year, students at Columbus High School are asked to dig deep as they donate money to the Thanksgiving food drive.
Conducted by the social ministry Christian service class, the drive’s proceeds support food assistance programs at the local chapter of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charitable organization.
This year, weeks into the November effort, they needed to dig a little deeper. A few days before Thanksgiving and the original end of the fundraiser, students were well below their goal of $26,000.
Teacher Pat Wiss said they had raised less than $15,000, so a decision was made. “We extended it, because we weren’t doing well.”
By the time the drive wrapped up Friday, that had changed. Members of the class presented an oversized check to Pat Russo, executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Waterloo, for $32,576 during a school assembly.
“That’s a school record, guys,” senior Josefina Jaramillo told the assembled students. It beat last year’s total of $31,791, which had also been a record, and was 125 percent of this year’s goal. Students had donated 164 food items, as well, a number that’s been dwindling over recent years in favor of cash contributions.
“We are proud to reach this goal to support St. Vincent de Paul,” added senior Ana Ortiz.
Russo was pleased to receive the money, which will cover the organization’s annual food assistance budget and then some. He estimated the budget to be $24,000.
“Every year the Columbus family amazes me. You get to a point where I think you can’t do more,” he said, and then end up topping the prior year.
“We had a really slow start,” acknowledged senior Addisen Lytle, before students “kicked it into gear. Once we got the ball rolling it was smooth sailing.”
The class organized about a half dozen events such as a community meal featuring food from the Waterloo Brown Bottle restaurant, a trivia night and a Halloween dance. “We had collections every day during second period,” said Lytle, through which most of the money was raised.
Wiss said the community meal, provided for a donation, raised $2,500. Taking an offering at a different Catholic church in Waterloo and Cedar Falls each week raised another $5,183.
“Everything about this drive comes back to love, it’s like Christmas,” she said. The money will start being put to use just in time for the holiday through the Christmas basket program.
“On the Saturday before Christmas, 500 families will be getting food that will last more than a day,” said Wiss. Coats and toys are also provided for members of each family. Additionally, the organization’s year-round emergency food box program provides three to five days of food to needy people, serving approximately 100 families per month.