- Eric Schwartzberg Staff Writer
A nearly decade-old local tradition continues this month, propelled by a crosstown rivalry but benefiting the residents of West Chester and Liberty townships as a whole.
Hosted by the Lakota Board of Education, the ninth annual Reach In for Reach Out Lakota district-wide food drive plays off the spirit of the Lakota East vs. Lakota West football game, pitting Lakota’s East side schools against the West side schools.
The food drive, which kicks off Monday, is the single largest source of donations all year long for local non-profit food pantry Reach Out Lakota.
“We think we got about 30,000 pounds combined (in all of the years of the drive),” said Lourdes A. Ward, Reach Out Lakota’s CEO and executive director.
The generosity of the food drive typically helps Reach Out Lakota feed families during November and December, Ward said. Last year it amassed between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds of donations and stocked Reach Out Lakota’s shelves through February.
Board of Education President Lynda O’Connor said the food drive started as a board project in 2008 as a way to support a local organization that helps local students and families, offer students an opportunity through fun competition to give back to their community, and highlights service to others in a district wide event.
“Many in and out of our community don’t have an awareness of the need right here in West Chester and Liberty,” O’Connor told the Journal-News. “Food insufficiency and hunger are real issues for some. As an example, many families need the services Reach Out Lakota provides due to loss of a job, illnesses or other life altering crisis, and ROL’s support gives them a chance to get back on their feet.”
The winner of the food drive will be announced during the halftime ceremonies of the Oct. 28 Lakota East vs. Lakota West game.
Ward said Reach Out Lakota has been around for 24 years and is “a testimony to the caring folks that live in our district.”
“The fact that school board members organized this as a way for not only faculty and students but residents of our area to support us shows the caliber of our residents’ commitment to keeping us entirely community supported for the future,” she said. “We are very grateful to everyone involved.”
Lakota West Principal Elgin Card said West and East have a “friendly, competitive rivalry.”
“While we both want to do our best and win the food drive and game, we understand that it’s about the people we can help. Ultimately, we will always work together for what is best for this great community,” Card said. “Our kids understand we must always pay it forward.”
Lakota East Principal Suzanna Davis said the annual canned food drive is “a great way to energize our students to give back to their community.”
“We’re thrilled to be able to support Reach Out Lakota,” she said. “By joining together district-wide, the canned food drive is a great way to celebrate the togetherness of Lakota while engaging in a friendly competition between East and West.”
O’Connor said residents are fortunate to live a community in which people are responsive to the needs of their neighbors and “very generous” in their donations.
“It’s Lakota students and volunteers who work hard to make this a successful drive,” she said. “The amount of community service our students engage in throughout our area is something we can all feel pride in.”