As vehicles passed by Bigelow Park on a rainy Saturday morning, their generosity did not go unnoticed by a group of more than two dozen Northridge and Johnstown students who had spent the night in cardboard boxes.
Members of the Johnstown All Creatures 4-H Club raised more than $2,000 and collected more than 1,000 nonperishable food items for the Johnstown-Northridge Food Pantry on May 9-10. That's the most in the event's five-year history, according to club adviser Brian Bemiller.
"I think it says a lot about the community that we live in," he said. "We had people emptying their ashtrays when they drove by. I bet we got a quarter of our donations (between 7 and 10 a.m. Saturday). We had just great support, and the food pantry was so pleased and grateful."
Last year's event raised more than $2,000 and nearly 800 food items. The goal was to raise 1,500 food items. The food pantry, which is housed at the Johnstown Independent Church, 7397 Johnstown-Alexandria Road, serves about 175 needy families annually.
The event received more attention, thanks to organizer Tom DeLoss, who reached out to advertisers and media, Bemiller said.
Participants ranged in age from 6 to 18. The youngest members, the Cloverbuds, did not spend the night.
"Club members always enjoy it," Bemiller said. "I always hear comments, like 'I really appreciate what I have and what my parents do for me' or 'I'm pretty lucky to have what I have.' I know none of them would want to live in those conditions for a long period of time."
The food drive also featured a performance by the band, Focus, which comprises club members. Because of the rainy weather, the group was allowed to perform in the Johnstown Town Hall/Opera House.
Rededicated in July 2010, it is one of only five known opera houses still in existence in Ohio.
"The historical society let them play in the opera house, and that was a nice thing that they didn't have to do, and I know the kids really enjoyed that," Bemiller said. "It was just another example of how supportive the community has been."