Treats help fill needs for food pantry
By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
Dusk set in with a cotton-candy pink sky as two Boy Scouts and adults from Pack 131 scurried door-to-door collecting canned goods in a red Radio Flyer wagon.
The Boy Scouts were one of 25 community groups rallying together for the Trick-or-Treat-So-Others-Can-Eat event to boost the pantry supplies for Community Assistance Center in Hays.
The main room of the CAC was buzzing with cans clattering into shopping carts as teenagers organized the overwhelming haul as supervisors controlled the chaos.
Laurie Mortinger, co-director of the center that provides food, clothing and other resources to people in need, said she hoped the food drive would raise 20,000 pounds of food supplies. The CAC, aided without government funding, allows Ellis County residents who qualify financially to receive up to a week's worth of food four times a year.
DECA, Hays High School's marketing group, has spearheaded the food drive since it was born from a student's community project in 1984.
Shaina Prough, the organization's adviser, said 45 DECA members joined volunteers from the Girl Scouts, churches, 4-H, Fort Hays State University student groups, businesses and others to canvass neighborhoods and collect food.
The community effort revived the struggling CAC.
Warren Shaffer, chapter president of the Lions Club International, said the event pumped life back into the center.
"The shelves were bare earlier today. There was only peanut butter, corn and green beans," Shaffer said.
A steady stream of carts replenished the box dinners, tuna, salmon, soups, beans and other food groups.
Rhonda Windholz said her family donated to a door-to-door collector, and the giving mood was contagious.
"It's neat to see kids out for a worthy cause," Windholz said. "Now all the neighborhood kids want to help."
Lily Meska, a junior at HHS, said the event was a reminder everyone needs to help each other.
"We're all in this together, so it's important to work together," Meska said.
Shaffer said the CAC's role should be not underestimated.
"It's a shock absorber for the community. ... It absorbs the stress of hard times," Shaffer said.