The continuing rains Tuesday evening in Hays didn’t stop the drive to give in Hays.
Volunteers spread out across town in the annual Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat, going door-to-door to collect canned goods and other perishable food items for the Community Assistance Center, 208 E. 12th.
In its 33rd year, the drive is organized by Hays High School’s DECA.
More than 20 groups — including student organizations from Hays High, Thomas More Prep-Marian High School and Fort Hays State University, and civic groups and businesses — participate in the event each year.
Among the newest groups participating this year were students in Hays High School’s Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas. The school’s partnership with the nonprofit JAG-K aims to help students at risk of dropping out or being unemployed after graduation to finish school and develop a career path.
The students are required to have 10 hours of community service a year, and the food drive was their first big event, said Johnny Matlock, career specialist for the program.
“It just feels great. It makes you feel like you’re giving back to the community,” said sophomore Zach Chance, vice president of community service for Hays High JAG-K. This is the second year he’s participated in the event.
Shaina Prough, DECA sponsor, spent much of the evening orchestrating the flow of goods at the center and making sure areas of town had been covered.
“I just love it. Just spending time with the people here and knowing that we’re working for the same cause makes me happy,” said Isabelle Braun as she worked with fellow DECA members Connor Teget, Peyton Thorell and Creighton Newell in counting each can, box and bag.
“We couldn’t do without these kids,” said Dianne Leiker, a CAC volunteer for seven years, as she crossed out UPC codes alongside Dennis Ernst of the Hays Lions Club across the table from the DECA members.
Across the room, his fellow Lions Club member Nathan Del Rio sorted canned goods by category into shopping carts.
“I’ve been there before, when you need help,” the FHSU freshman said of his reason for helping Tuesday. “It’s a good event because it gives back to the community.”
After the goods were sorted into categories — soups, beans, tomatoes, pasta, fruit and so forth — they were taken into the pantry. Earlier in the day, the shelves were almost empty, except for the collections brought in from Sunday’s drive-through flu shot event at Hays Medical Center.
But the shelves began to quickly refill as CAC volunteers Karyl Ferguson and Patty Rupp and CAC president Karen Younger placed each item in its designated space.
Families and individuals from Ellis County can receive a week’s worth of food up to six times a year through the center. Fall and winter often sees an increase in demand because construction workers and others with outside jobs are often laid off for the season, CAC co-director Laurie Mortinger said.