Students at Thrasher Elementary are really getting into the Christmas spirit this season, as evidenced by the unprecedented number of cans donated to the school's food drive for Signal Mountain Social Services.
Carol Whitfield, the nonprofit service organization's Thrasher Elementary representative, said food-sorting volunteers accounted for 3,665 cans donated this year. With 575 students at the school, she said this means around five to six cans were donated per child.
"We exceeded all our wildest dreams," said principal Aimee Randolph. "We have had an abundance of sharing here in this community, and it just makes you feel good."
Parent Jessie Lenuza, a newcomer to the Thrasher community, brought in suggestions from her child's former school which Randolph and Whitfield said they felt contributed to the increase in donations this year.
"She had some fun ideas about how to motivate the kids," said Whitfield, noting a pancake breakfast with the principal as a reward for the class donating the most cans.
Mrs. Johnson's fourth-grade class prevailed by collecting 389 cans, she added.
Whitfield said teachers were asked to somehow incorporate the food drive into their day by addressing issues such as hunger or helping others in the community, or by doing math problems using canned goods.
She said she helped with last year's drive as well, and one change she noticed this season was fewer expired cans.
"People were shopping for it instead of just cleaning out their pantries," said Whitfield, also crediting Pruett's for the influx of new cans due to the store's offer of 10 percent off the price of as many cans as would fit in a bag provided by the store. "The whole hall at Thrasher was filled with brown Pruett's bags."
One mom who told Whitfield she rarely had the time to volunteer donated 200 cans as her way of giving back to the community, she said.
The purpose of the drive is to collect food to be included in the SMSS Christmas baskets handed out to families in need on the mountain each year, said Whitfield.
"All the extras not used for Christmas baskets goes to the [SMSS] food pantry to help Signal Mountain residents all year," she said.