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Royal Bay Secondary School students rise to the occasion

10,000-Item Food drive a resounding success
Amy Symonn, Amanda Cheeseman, Sarah Leswal work to help with 10,000 item project. (Tim Collins/ Image)

~Columnist: Tim Collins

Students, staff, school alumni and a host of volunteers were out in force at Royal Bay Secondary School on Nov. 29, as the “10,000 tonight” food drive surged to another successful year. The number of food items they collected was only surpassed by the number of smiles on the faces of volunteers as they completed their latest food drive – an event that will help provide food for those in need in the Westshore communities.

The concept started back in 2009 when a Belmont Secondary School student first came up with the idea of trying to collect 10,000 food items to donate to the local food bank. At the time, he probably had no idea how the idea would catch on and how successful it would become.

Since that time, even through the pandemic, when the approach had to be slightly modified, the initiative has consistently surpassed the 10,000-item goal.

“Last year we collected more than 17,000 items and I can tell you that there has never been a year where we haven’t met and exceeded our goal,” said Cody Cook, a leadership teacher at Royal Bay.

“The leadership team (at the school) canvassed about 100 people for help and with the additional help of parents, teachers, staff and alumni of the school we ended up with several hundred people involved.”

Volunteers went door-to-door to collect food items, but also coordinated collection bins at elementary schools, the solicitation of local businesses, and a drop-off opportunity at the front of the school.

“The bulk of our collections came from the door-to-door effort,” said Cook.“We had 51 driving routes and each route had up to 5 students going door to door. It was an amazing effort.”

As one might expect, Christmas is a particularly demanding time for food banks, but the 10,000-tonight food drive has done its part to meet the need.

The program has become a vital part of the Goldstream Food Bank’s operations and has, in recent years, allowed it to annually deliver more than 600 Christmas food hampers to the community.

And, the need keeps growing.

“We’re planning for more than 750 hampers this year,” said Gail Ireland, the president and coordinator of volunteers for the Goldstream Food Bank. “This event was extremely important for us and the initiatives that these students showed are truly exemplary. They help us to keep this food bank together.”

“The leadership teachers (at Royal Bay Secondary School) are so proud of our students. They started a couple of months ago getting all the moving parts in place. These students are fantastic,” said Cook.

“We had a few tough years over the COVID years, but they kept it going and now we’re back to the pre-COVID methods. The way we look at it, we have a legacy to live up to and we intend to keep doing it so long as the need exists.”

The total for last night’s food drive was 11,108 food items.

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Student Ainsley Sitar carries the latest food donation. (Tim Collins/ Image)
Royal Bay students help to sort and count donated items. (Tim Collins/ Image)
Teachers, Elise Enge, Sophia Park, Alexandra Hargrave help students in the 10,000 item project. (Tim Collins/ Image)
Students and volunteers work to collect 10,000 items for Goldstream Food Bank. (Tim Collins/ Image)

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