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Salvation Army honors schools; Students gather food items

By Staff | Oct 14, 2008

After weeks of collecting canned goods and dried food for The Salvation Army, local schools were honored for accumulating a total of 97,833 items, a decrease of 31,669 items from the year before.

Even though The Salvation Army celebrated the students’ hard work, the total collected this year was 25 percent less than in 2007, an indication that with the poor economy many residents of Southwest Florida are not donating as much as they have in the past.

Overall, 72 local schools participated in the food drive.

“We have so many people who are struggling and trying to provide just the basic needs for their families. A lot of times, these families are going without meals just to keep a roof over their heads,” said Maj. Art Penhale, corps officer for The Salvation Army.

The annual food drive is a major supply source for The Salvation Army’s local food pantry that earlier in the year had its supply fall dangerously low. In August the organization announced that demand had increased by 70 percent this year and that the pantry was nearly empty.

“With this drastic increase, comes the depletion of our food pantry. Looking at the pantry today, there is one word to describe it — dire,” said Penhale in August.

All of the items collected by Lee County schools will go to the food pantry at the Outreach Services Center at 2476 Edison Ave. in Fort Myers. The school with the most items collected also received a grand trophy that travels to the winning school each year.

“This year, we have given out 73 percent more food bags and many to families with school-age children,” said Penhale. “We thank every student and teacher who gave so much of their time to this important cause.”

This year, the Royal Palm Exceptional School was named the top school and presented the grand trophy for the fifth year in a row. It averaged 22.7 cans per student.

Gulf Elementary received a trophy of appreciation for collecting 2.7 cans per student and Challenger Middle for 14.1 cans per student.

The largest total can count came from Gateway Charter High School that amassed 5,926 cans.

Other Cape Coral schools submitted a number of canned goods and dried foods. Last week, Mariner Middle handed over 1,596 items to The Salvation Army.