Published Thursday, November 15, 2012
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
The annual Coweta Can-A-Thon is in full swing, and, as usual, Coweta schools are fundraising, collecting cans, and coming up with creative ways to raise money and food in order to help stock the Coweta Community Food Pantry.
The official public drop-off day for the Can-A-Thon, mounted annually by the Newnan Junior Service League, is always the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year, that’s Nov. 27. Drop-off points will be manned from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in downtown Newnan and Senoia.
But for the Coweta school system, the Can-A-Thon has been going strong for weeks.
“Coweta County schools are the main force in Coweta’s food drive, and students and teachers typically raise 200,000 or more cans, boxes and bags of food, and cash equivalents,” said Dean Jackson, public information officer for the Coweta County School System.
Powder Puff football games are Can-A-Thon fundraisers at both Smokey Road Middle School and Newnan High School.
“Newnan High’s Can-A-Thon is going strong,” said Chris Cain, NHS student government sponsor. “Near the beginning of our efforts, we took the student government officers to the food pantry for a first-hand look at how it works and what they need,” Cain said. “The officers then produced a video of their experience that was shown throughout the school on our video-over-IP system,” he said. “Our biggest event, the Powder Puff football game, was last week and raised over $2,000.”
The school is also having weekly school-wide cookie drawings and various class-level activities such as bake sales and “penny wars.”
Moreland Elementary School shifted its focus from the number of items collected to the quality of items, according to Principal Beverly Yeager.
The first grade is hosting a “PJs for Peanut Butter” day on Friday, with students getting to wear their pajamas to school and donating peanut butter. School staff will wear jeans this week in exchange for food items on Macaroni Monday, Tuna Tuesday, “Wegtable” Wednesday, Tea Bag Thursday, and Favorite Food Friday.
“We’re seeking to balance the mass of Ramen noodles and cans of beans and corn with other quality items,” said Yeager. In addition, she said, “we have a decades-old tradition of celebrating our Can-A-Thon collection spirit and the excitement of Thanksgiving with a staff volleyball game for students on Friday afternoon.”
Lee Middle School takes the Can-A-Thon very seriously. Last year, Lee was the top school in the county, raising more than 32,000 items.
“We always set our goal at 30,000 and we make it every year,” said Principal Bob Heaberlin.
The sixth grade is always “our biggest go getter,” said Heaberlin. They’re not having any particular events to raise money or encourage kids to donate this year, but they don’t need to.
“That’s just our big outreach for the community,” said Heaberlin. “That and Relay for Life are our two big ones at Lee,” he said.
“Outreach is a big part of the ‘way of the wolf,’” Heaberlin said of the Lee Timberwolves.
“Here is the time of Thanksgiving, and we’re trying to help those who are in need,” Heaberlin said.
Collecting items for the Can-A-Thon is also part of the school’s “character education.”
“Character education is a big part of Lee Middle School,” Heaberlin said. “Kids go out and rake leaves on weekends and make money, and they give it to the Can-A-Thon,” he said.
“We have several classrooms that are over 1,000 cans, and I think that we are already at 20,000 or pretty close to it,” Heaberlin said.
While some schools wrap up their collection at the end of this week — before the Thanksgiving break — “we don’t cut ours off until the week we come back,” because students often “hoard cans” and bring them in at the last minute, Heaberlin said.
Doris Leak’s sixth grade homeroom has collected $3,000 in food items and cash equivalents.
Student Evan Hirsh showed his dedication with a Chunky Soup costume. Heaberlin said Hirsh found the costume on Amazon.com and bought it for the Can-A-Thon. “I took him to band concerts and our awards program, and he went out and talked to parents and the kids about the importance of the food drive,” Heaberlin said.
The homeroom that collects the most items each year is the recipient of the Ten Pound Can award. It’s a giant can of food that gets passed around to the winning homeroom every year. Getting the Ten Pound Can award is a pretty big deal, Heaberlin said.
“I don’t give out any other awards. The kids just do it out of the kindness of their hearts, because it is the right thing to do,” Heaberlin said.