Published Sunday, December 09, 2012
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
The 29th annual Coweta Can-A-Thon ended on Nov. 27, but donations are still coming in at the Coweta Community Food Pantry.
“They were still dropping cans off [Friday],” said Jennifer Cates, president of the Newnan Junior Service League, which organizes the annual event.
The official public drop-off event is always held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, but several businesses wanted to keep gathering food items and monetary donations through the end of November, Cates said.
The Coweta County School System typically collects the lion’s share of the donations, but in the past few years, the non-school system donations have risen.
This year, so far, those non-school system donations have totaled 91,026, said Cates. That amount includes food items and monetary donations calculated at three cans for a dollar.
This year’s school system total was 182,400. The school total has seemed lower in the last two years, but that’s not necessarily because fewer items were collected. Instead, it’s because monetary donations are now calculated at three cans per dollar instead of four per dollar. That change was made by the school system in 2011.
That makes the grand total so far at 273,426. That’s up from about 250,000 on Nov. 27.
“I think our big push this year with the businesses really helped us out a lot,” said Cates. “We had so many businesses that participated.” Businesses set out collection boxes and got their employees to donate and “they did it for the whole month of November,” she said.
“Our goal next year is we are going to start earlier,” Cates said, getting businesses involved in October. They started a bit earlier this year and will move things back even further next year.
Many of the Junior League members set up donation boxes at their workplaces, as well. “We just had so many more businesses interested in it,” Cates said. Bodyplex gym, for instance, asked anyone taking a class at the gym to bring a food item, and FedEx did an employee matching program, with the company matching what its employees donated, she said. Longtime participant Yamaha collected about 8,000 cans.
Local day-care centers have also gotten involved. “We received a lot of cans from that,” Cates said.
“Each year, it kind of grows more and more,” Cates said of the public participation in the Can-A-Thon.
The Heritage School and Trinity Christian School have started a friendly rivalry to see which school can collect the most items. A trophy will be kept by the winner each year. This year, it’s Heritage, which collected 9,120. Trinity collected 6,611.
The top school this year, as in many years past, was Lee Middle School, which collected 30,192 in cans and cash equivalent. In second place was Smokey Road Middle with 20,304.
Other schools raising more than 4,000 cans were: Newnan High, 17,800; East Coweta High, 16,944; Brooks Elementary, 12,481; Madras Middle, 9,103; Newnan Crossing Elementary, 8,055; Atkinson Elementary, 5,727; Poplar Road Elementary, 5,309; Northgate High, 5,021; Canongate Elementary, 4,867; Arnall Middle, 4,636, and Jefferson Parkway Elementary, 4,336.
Brooks was ranked with much larger schools in the final total.
“There was just a strong drive at our school from our families and students,” said Brooks Principal Julie Raschen. “Our school held a fundraiser where children and staff could wear their PJs to school for a donation of three cans or a dollar,” Raschen said. “But our biggest donations came from parents who matched their children’s donations.” Abigail and Chapman Ward’s parents matched everything their children donated, for a total of more than $150, she said.
The Junior League presented a big check to food pantry Executive Director Derenda Rowe on Monday at the organization’s December Dinner.
At the dinner, Cates praised Ginny Lambert and Carolyn Harrison, this year’s Can-A-Thon Committee co-chairs, for their work on the event.
The Can-A-Thon is the Junior League’s biggest community event of the year.
Also at the dinner, the Junior League presented gifts to Yolanda Colton of the Coweta Department of Family and Children’s Services. This year, the League is providing Christmas gifts to 35 children through its Christmas in Newnan program. With the additional help of Junior League Sustainer Gina Watkiss and The Heritage School, the League is also providing Christmas gifts for members of Coweta’s elderly community. Funds raised at the Bargain Bash and Fall Social will benefit the Christmas in Newnan program.
Next year is the 30th anniversary of the Can-A-Thon and the Junior League is already thinking about big plans for it. “We really want to do a big push with the businesses and everyone so we can have the best year ever,” Cates said.
Cates said one thing that astonishes her is that some people who were involved in the very first Can-A-Thon are still active.
“The food pantry was started after the first Can-A-Thon because they had so many cans they didn’t know where to put them,” Cates said. “The same people are involved in it. That, to me, is so amazing.”