Churches, schools and other organizations throughout Marion County haven?t forgotten that many area families are struggling financially these days and will need help to celebrate Thanks?giving and Christmas.
For the past five years, one source of help has come from students at Goessel High School involved in a project called ?Can the Teacher.?
?Can the Teacher helps people in need during the holiday season,? said Brian Stucky, student council adviser. ?It?s a little early for Christmas, but in time for Thanksgiving.?
The idea for the project, he said, came out of a student council regional conference.
?We heard of an activity to raise a tremendous amount of canned food for those in need,??Stucky said. ?In our case, that was the Tabor Mennonite Church Community Food Pantry.
?Originally, it worked with students bringing in canned food before the 8 a.m. starting bell and stacking the cans in front of a teacher?s classroom door,? he said.
If enough cans covered the door, the teacher didn?t teach that day and the students who would have had class would instead go to the auditorium and watch movies, Stucky said.
?This was a tremendous incentive to bring canned goods, but after a few years, a pattern emerged with the same teachers being canned and others not.?
As a way to make an all-or-nothing project, students now put the food in a large cardboard barrel with steel rims.
?The goal is to fill the barrel,? he said. ?If it is filled, then everyone goes to see a movie, but just for the morning.?
The student council, he said, continues to make adjustments to the original project to make it even better each year.
At first, the school raised only a small box of cans.
?Now,? Stucky said, ?we take a pickup load of canned food to the Tabor Food Pantry.?
A powerful gift
Last year, Stucky said, pastor Corey Miller of Tabor Menno?nite Church met with students who transported the food to tell them what a powerful gift it is and what it means to the community, especially in this economy.
In addition to the food project, GHS Stuco is having its Community Service Day Friday, Nov. 19.
?We have always had a leaf raking day one afternoon to rake leaves for elderly persons in the city of Goessel,? he said.
?(Leaf-raking day) is very much appreciated, with many heartfelt thanks and cards,? Stucky said.
Some smaller Marion County communities might not have organized gatherings for Thanksgiving, but they help neighbors during difficult times or open their homes to international students for the holidays, according to city officials.
One example dating back 56 years is alive and well in Burns. It began when Betty Grimwood of Burns United Methodist Church initiated the homestay program at Kansas University.
According to KU, the program was begun to give international students a place to go either on Thanksgiving Day or for the full Thanksgiving break.
Grimwood and her neighbors encouraged the Burns residents to share their holidays with the international students.
Three years later, the practice had become a KU tradition, gaining national recognition and spreading to other Kansas communities.
Some residents who helped start the program have died, but others in Burns continue to participate, including Tom and Nedy Grimwood, Betty?s son and daughter-in-law.
This year, many Burns residents are planning a community dinner for students in the homestay program.
Main Street Ministries Food Bank in Hillsboro is stocking its shelves in anticipation of many families needing help during the holidays.
In recent weeks, Boy Scouts and other volunteers have gone door-to-door, and at 4 p.m. Sunday, community members and Tabor College will join the effort via a thanksgiving concert.
The college music department, in partnership with the Hillsboro-Area Ministerial Alliance, is presenting the concert
The concert is free, but everyone who attends is encouraged to bring non-perishable food for Main Street Ministries.
On Saturday, members of Hillsboro High School?s H-Club are coordinating a leaf-raking event from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Hillsboro Community Hospital has also been involved in food drives, according to Dale Nuss, board chairman of Main Street Ministries.
Another annual event to help charitable organizations give to children and families during the holidays is the Marion County Toy Run, which was Nov. 6.
More than 120 motorcyclists and riders were involved.
Proceeds from the toy run have not yet been dispersed, but in past years organizers said several thousands dollars and hundreds of toys have been distributed to charitable groups within the county.
Spirit of the Season
In recent weeks, Hillsboro United Methodist Church offered its annual turkey dinner by donation. Other churches offer similar feasts, along with special services as a reminder of the blessings many families enjoy.
Goessel?s Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church is inviting the public to its Thanksgiving Day service at 9:45 a.m. Nov. 25.
The service of praise and worship will include music and singing and a meditation by Linda Ewert, pastor.
The church is located one mile north of Goessel on Kansas Highway 15.
Members of the Florence United Methodist Church sponsored a Thanksgiving dinner this past Sunday, inviting the community to attend.
For information on Thanks?giving church services, residents are encouraged to call specific churches.