The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 17, 2013

Limestone fourth-graders 'Fill a Ford' with food

By Jonathan Deal

— Daisy McCormack stood in front of about a dozen West Limestone fourth-graders Friday, explaining what she does as food coordinator at the Limestone County Churches Involved organization. Standing in a crowded room to escape the rain, McCormack asked the students:

“Do you know why we help people?”

Within seconds a few hands go up.

“To help people.”

“For people who can’t afford food.”

“For people that lost their jobs.”

These West Limestone fourth-graders know exactly what LCCI does and how important it is. Their visit Friday afternoon was the culmination of a two-week service project to collect canned goods.

“What started this was that we have had a service project every year,” said West Limestone fourth-grade teacher Dawn Nicholson. “We wanted to do something that showed the kids how to give back to the community.”

Nicholson and other fourth-grade teachers at West spearheaded the project that has grown to include almost all fourth-grade classes in Limestone County. After deciding on the project, Nicholson’s fourth-grade class and West Limestone’s other fourth-graders reached out to other schools in the county to collect cans for the project.

“The kids went to talk with all the classes in the school at the beginning of the project,” said West Limestone fourth-grade teacher Courtney Keeton. “They wrote letters to the other schools and invited them to participate.”

The response was overwhelming. Fourth-grade students from West Limestone, Creekside, Tanner, Piney Chapel, Johnson, Elkmont and Blue Springs chipped in to help.

While the teachers oversaw the project, the students did the work. West Limestone’s fourth-graders collected the cans every morning and organized them in a room where they were stored until the end of the project.

“We want to make sure that there is enough food to go around at Thanksgiving,” said Nicholson. “It’s a leadership thing. We are teaching them to be leaders. Although we are supervising, they are the ones doing this. We just want to teach our kids that it’s the right thing to do.”

West Limestone’s students responded to the challenge. The project’s original goal was to gather 2,500 cans by Nov. 15. After a slow start, Limestone’s fourth graders collected 5,283 canned goods, more than doubling their original goal. At West Limestone and Creekside alone, the students gathered more than 2,500 cans.

“We really didn’t know how many we would have until today. Last week, we were a little worried about meeting our goal,” said Keeton. “But this week, they stepped it up and brought in plenty. The kids were responsible for collecting every morning. Today, they were responsible of loading the trucks. They did pretty much everything.”

Following the two-week can drive, McClary Ford allowed the school system to borrow trucks to collect the cans and fill them with food. With several trucks loaded to the brim, West Limestone’s fourth-grader gathered at LCCI on a rainy afternoon to see the fruits of their labor.

“It helps out a lot,” McCormack said about the school donations. “We have a budget of what we can spend, so through these donations, we are able to help more families.”

McCormack said the holidays are a busy season for the organization. Along with taking in donations, LCCI purchases large amounts of food to distribute to needy families in Limestone County.

According to McCormack, LCCI distributes between 12,000 to 14,000 bags of food to Limestone residents each year. With the help of individuals and organizations in the county, LCCI donates as much as $200,000 annually to needy families.

“We only service people in Limestone County,” said McCormack. “We try to help our families four times a year. How much we give depends on what is donated.”

Thanks to some thoughtful fourth-graders, there should be plenty to give this Thanksgiving.