Get your canned goods ready because it’s almost time for students to descend on the city for one night to collect donations for the Salvation Army Food Bank.
On Nov. 29 starting at 5 p.m. students from the Penticton’s secondary and middle schools will take to the streets to take part in 10,000 Tonight.
Residents will receive a bag in the Friday, Nov. 24 edition of the Penticton Western News they can fill and leave outside their door. Students then collect those bags and take them back to their respective schools where the contents of each bag is counted and logged into a system before being taken to the Salvation Army.
Liam Marshall, Grade 12 student from Penticton High School and a member of the school’s leadership class tasked with organizing the participation in the city-wide event, said it’s a night students look forward to all year.
“It’s an amazing atmosphere. Everyone is there. We’re all just having a great time. There’s smiles on their faces. Everyone understands what an impact we’re making and the community is so generous. Once we do 10,000 Tonight as a school everyone really gets into the festive sprit,” Marshall said.
In the past, each of the city’s high schools took turns running the food drive. But in recent years it was decided to split the city into Penticton High and Princess Margaret Secondary School catchment areas and then include both KVR Middle School and Skaha Lake Middle School.
Kyla Finlayson, Grade 12 student at Maggie and one of several students organizing the logistics of the evening, said at each school a few hundred students and dozens of adult drivers donate their time each year.
“It’s really a big deal. If feels really good knowing that you made a difference,” she said.
Finlayson added although Pen High and Maggie are staunch rivals the students do not look at the evening as a competition.
“It’s about us all working together for this great cause. We actually have people that go through the bags and take inventory of what is brought in but we don’t say what school it’s from. It’s just all recorded as one. We have a goal of collecting more than 10,000 items and I know we’ll beat that.”
When routes are done students gather back at their schools and enjoy refreshments and entertainment while the donations are being counted.
Miriam Leslie, of the Penticton Salvation Army said the food drive is the largest and one of the most fun of the year.
“What they do that night helps carry us through the rest of the year. We get lots of donations this time of year but things get pretty scarce in January, February and March and of course there is still quite a need. This event carries us through,” she said.
Leslie said at this point donations are rolling in steadily for both the food bank and the Christmas hamper program.
She noted it was a contrast from the previous year when food bank’s in the region and across the country were struggling to keep shelves stocked.
“It’s been really good. A year ago we actually went through a terrible time. It was pretty much happening across Canada. The donations didn’t seem to come through as needed but this year has been fabulous,” she said.
Leslie noted increased sponsorship from several corporate partners including Loblaws who now donates meat to the food bank through the local Superstore.
“The community continues to be really generous. We’re very fortunate,” she said.
For those wondering what to donate she suggested staples like pasta sauce, peanut butter, canned meat, beans or other protein.