The big event of the day Friday at Youth's Benefit Elementary Schoolwas a wheelchair basketball game. Price of admission for pupils: onecan of food.
The school matched up the basketball game and drive to raise canned goods as a way to heighten awareness about people with disabilities and the value of reaching out to those in need in the community.
Friday was the annual Disability Awareness Day at Youth's Benefit-- hence the basketball game featuring area disabled athletes. It was also a key day in the school's effort to raise 3,600 cans of food for the Harvest for the Hungry campaign.
The campaign, under way infour counties around Baltimore, is aimed at helping food banks, which provide low-cost food to the needy, restock their badly depleted shelves.
Youth's Benefit is one of 18 of the county's 27 public elementary schools participating in the effort. The annual food drive wasstarted in 1987 by Fallston resident Lawrence V. Adam Jr, a Baltimore-based stockbroker.
All the food collected by the Harford schoolsand other county-based groups participating during Harvest for the Hungry will go to the Harford Food Bank, operated by the Rev. William McNally, a retired Methodist minister.
McNally said that since Sept. 1, Harvest for the Hungry donations have supplied the Harford FoodBank with more than 3,000 pounds of food. He says he hopes the driveresults in 10,000 pounds.
"With this drive we're trying to get revved up to meet the fall crisis that comes when people have to choosebetween food and heat, or food, heat and rent," McNally said.
Food Bank volunteers visit participating schools to collect the food forlater distribution to 27 emergency food "pantries," operated by community outreach groups, and to 20 churches and "brown bag" clubs. The churches and community groups distribute the food to residents in theform of grocery bags weighing 35 to 50 pounds, McNally said.
In addition, the Food Bank distributes food to elderly residents on fixedincomes and single parents in the Women, Infants and Children program, he said. The Food Bank charges recipients of the food 14 cents a pound. It uses the money to buy more food from the Maryland Food Bank in Baltimore and to pay costs associated with operating the local food bank.
Final pickups of the food by the Harford Food Bank will beconducted until Friday, McNally said.
"The first week of next month we'll need 600 bags of food for WIC recipients," McNally said. "We're really hoping the schools will come through."
Jim Dryden, principal at Youth's Benefit, said the Harvest for the Hungry program fits into the school's efforts to teach pupils the value of helping others in the community.
"We participate in several community service activities each year, because the students can learn to care about others and that they have a responsibility to help others in society," he said.
The goal for the school, which has 1,200 pupils, is 3,600cans, or three cans per child. Dryden said he expected to meet that goal with the donation brought as the admission price to the wheelchair basketball demonstration game.
"I like it when it really helps the people right in the community, the way Harvest for the Hungry does, rather than sending money to a national headquarters," he said. Pupils can see the immediate effects of their effort in the community that way, he added.
Schools in Harford that raise the most amount of food -- decided by a formula based on total weight of food collected and school's population -- will receive prizes donated by PillsburyCo. The prizes include such items for classrooms as televisions, videocassette recorders and globes, Adam said.
He said the need in Harford is echoed in other counties where the food drive has been organized in public schools -- Anne Arundel, Howard and Cecil counties. Adam said there are 101 schools participating in the four counties.
"We hope to collect $1 million worth of food by Dec. 31," Adam said.
"We're about 66 percent there, but we're trying to raise more thanwe have in the last four years."
AH: the Hungry participating schools
Bakerfield Elementary 272-2626
Bel Air Elementary 838-0129
Churchville Elementary 836-9950
Darlington Elementary 836-8918
Edgewood Elementary 676-2870
Forest Hill Elementary 838-3280
Hillsdale Elementary 272-7414
Joppatowne Elementary 676-8151
North Harford Elementary 838-2120
Norrisville Elementary 692-2100
Prospect Mill Elementary 838-2774
Ring Factory Road 638-9220
Roye Williams 272-1470
William Paca/Old Post 676-0466
Youth's Benefit 877-7190
North Bend Elementary 692-5926
William S. James 676-4227