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Heather Abrey photo

Heather Abrey photo

Heather Abrey photo The choir from Rockway Mennonite Collegiate, led by Sarah Erdman, entertained volunteers at the House of Friendship Christmas food hamper program on Wednesday. Rockway students collected and donated more than 27,000 items for the hampers.

Rockway students crush their goal for annual food drive

By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff

Students at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate gave both food and Christmas cheer to the House of Friendship Christmas food hamper program this year.

On Wednesday morning, a Grade 10 choir arrived at the warehouse on Marsland Drive to entertain volunteers, who spent the day packing food hampers.

Volunteers sipped coffee and enjoyed snacks while the students regaled them with classic Christmas songs.

But Rockway students contributed more than music to the charity, which this year expects to pack 4,200 food hampers and deliver them to needy families.

The school of 284 students managed to collect and donate 27,144 items of food, surpassing their goal of 22,000.

The food drive is an annual event at Rockway, and has been a staple at this time of year for almost two decades, according to Rockway’s director of community relations, Tom Bileski.

“House of Friendship, as a contributor to the needy, has many connections to the Mennonite faith,” he said. “We feel House of Friendship carries the spirit and the same sense of service, no matter who it is.”

The students use a variety of tactics to collect food, whether its donating their own money or asking friends, family and alumni to donate.

The student association held a fundraiser where students bid to have the opportunity to throw a pie in the face of a student council member.

But for many, the driving factor was the prospect of watching their principal, Dennis Wikerd, shave off his beard, which is older than any of Rockway’s students.

Wikerd hasn’t been clean shaven since 1978,  but he promised students he would shave it off if they surpassed their goal of 22,000 pieces of food.

They accomplished that goal, and Wikerd is expected to part with his beard next week.

Every year, House of Friendship, with the help of about 600 volunteers, packs and distributes thousands of food hampers to needy families in Waterloo Region.

The charity group receives food from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, the Rotary Club’s turkey drive, as well as school food drives like the one at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate.

“It’s a great example of lots of different people coming together, each doing their piece, and we get it done,” said Christine Rier, development director at House of Friendship. “And we get it done in a very crazy time frame.”

This year, House of Friendship has added a new campaign to their arsenal, hoping to spread the spirit of giving.

“Imagine if we could take what we see here at our Christmas hamper program and spread it across our community,” said Rier.

That’s how 12 Days for Good got started in Waterloo Region. There are 12 designated ‘do-gooders’ in the community who are promoting the campaign, which encourages residents to do something good, regardless of what charity it benefits.

The resultant acts of kindness can be seen by searching for #12daysofgood on Twitter.

“Twitter is great for people talking about stuff, but to see them actually doing things . . .  it’s just amazing,” said Rier.

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