BY ISABELLE BRAUN
A heavy wind blew as community organizations gathered to begin their collections for Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat (TOT) at 6 p.m. on Oct. 8. They split up along their routes to make the collection of non-perishable food items as efficient as possible.
“I had 27 groups, ranging from boy scouts, girl scouts, college groups, community professional groups,” Shaina Prough said. “I organize all of the groups to go out and collect. They are supposed to canvas their areas and ring doorbells to pick up items from people’s homes. Then they bring them to the Community Assistance Center where Hays High DECA members, and we had some other school volunteers, count and mark and put everything away.”
From last night, the total count of items is 12,654, but items will be collected through the end of the month.
“We’ve already had three or four bags come in this morning, so we kind of wait until the end of the month to count,” co-director Lori Mortinger said. “This is one of our main food drives. We only have two, and this is the biggest one we ever have. Coming into winter, we really were in need. Our shelves were pretty bare.”
Last year the community assistance center helped approximately 5,000 families of just Ellis county.
“I think it’s important for us to remember there are people in our community who struggle to make ends meet,” Prough said. “It’s not that these people reckless in their spending, but a lot of times it’s just things come up. There were two kids from Hays High last night that came in and said ‘We remember coming here when we were little. We were so poor we couldn’t afford to go get groceries at the store, so we shopped here for free.’ They said ‘It’s so cool for us to be able to go out and collect and give back.’ This is why we do this. It was really touching to see those kids say that.”
Volunteers such as Hays High DECA, the Lyons club, Hays Christian Church and personal volunteers at the Community Assistance Center helped sort and count food.
“Summer kind of wipes us out since school is out, so hopefully this food drive will hold us over until May,” co-director Theresa Hill said.
Additional donations can be made by dropping food off at the Community Assistance Center or by contacting Hays High for pick-up arrangements.
“I think the results are great,” Mortinger said. “Looking in our kitchen we know how bad the shelves were, and last year we didn’t even use all of our flats, which are all of little boxes that we stack them on underneath, and we’re going to use them all this time.”