MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Career Center has a long-term partnership with the annual Food For The Hungry drive. This year promises to be no different, despite the precautions imposed by Covid-19.
Jim Riggle, principal of academics at the career center, told WNZR's Marcy Rinehart that despite the pandemic, the traditional competition between labs is ongoing.
“We're going to do three pizza parties for the winning labs,” he explained. “The competitions will be for the lab that brings in the most items overall, a combination of physical items and monetary donations, and the lab that has the highest average number of items per person.”
Acknowledging that a pizza party is a good incentive for student participation, Riggle also credits the tradition of helping with the drive as a motivator.
“But the thing I think helps the most is one of the things I say to them: 'You never know who this drive is going to help,'” he said. “It could benefit them at some point, it could benefit a family member, it could benefit the person sitting next to them or across from them. It's just a good thing to give back to the community that you live in.”
Under the direction of social studies teacher Corey Cline, the career center student council takes the lead in tracking the items collected.
“They are also the group that sponsors the pizza parties for the competitions,” Riggle said. “We'll have a poster in our cafeteria that shows our progress toward our goal.”
In addition to the labs competition, the career center is competing with the high schools at Centerburg, Danville, East Knox, Fredericktown, and Mount Vernon, a competition Riggle says the KCCC students “take to heart.”
“They really get into winning,” he said.
In 2019, high school students in Knox County collected over $3,400 and over 2,000 food items. The goal for the 2020 Food For The Hungry High School Food Drive Competition is to show Knox County that COVID 19, nor any other hurdle, will not prevent students from making a difference in their community.
The top-collecting schools in two categories will be awarded the traveling plaque to recognize each school's accomplishment. The Central Knox County Award will go to either Mount Vernon or the Knox County Career Center. The Greater Knox County Award will go to Centerburg, Danville, East Knox or Fredericktown. Each year, the winning school’s name is added to the traveling plaque, which is sponsored by Central Ohio Technical College.
Riggle believes it's important to get KCCC students involved in something like Food For The Hungry because giving is a part of life.
“It's not necessarily a skill, but if you don't have a giving nature, it's something that you can learn and realize that it's a good thing to give back to your community,” he said. “We're trying to teach our students to be professionals and be productive members of society, and giving is part of that.”
As part of its involvement, the career center hosts a themed-basket auction. This year's online auction features nine baskets. For a complete description of the baskets and to place a bid, click here.
Students actively participate in the auction by including gift certificates in the baskets. The gift certificates cover a range of services, including auto tech, digital media, and landscaping, among others.
“The OSU basket has concrete block, the auto tech program is doing a drive to do wheel alignments for staff members at the career center, careers and construction trades are making the frame for the Michigan basket collage,” Riggle said, adding that when an individual redeems the certificate, it's a tangible reminder to the students that they donated their time and services to FFTH.
The nine 2020 baskets feature more than 170 items from a variety of businesses. Classroom aide Lauren Smith picks up the donated items and certificates and assembles the baskets.
With the student and business involvement, covid-safe bidding, and the basket buyer's ability to help FFTH help the community, the themed baskets are a win-win-win-win situation for everyone.
“It's our community giving back to our community,” Riggle said of the group effort. “The amount of gift certificates that we've gotten from our community has been absolutely astounding, especially given the circumstances of Covid and people wanting to stay in as much as possible. It's just a great show of support from our community for our community.”
For Riggle, the FFTH theme, “Working together to care for our neighbors,” hits home. On staff at the career center from 2000-06, he recently returned after a stint at another school district.
“When I had the opportunity to come back here, I jumped at it, because there's truly no community like Knox County,” he said. “Within that, at the career center, we get to participate in all of the communities in Knox County. It's just such an awesome experience knowing how hard our community works to make our community better.
“It's just an overwhelming experience, and when I came back last year and knew the tradition of the career center participating in Food For The Hungry, it was a no-brainer for me and my family to get involved,” he continued. “It's just a really cool experience to be a part of it.”