Although leftover turkey and reheated stuffing may be on the minds of many this week, students at Whitehall-Yearling High School are setting their sights on Christmas.
For nearly three decades, students at the high school have collected nonperishable food items for community members who find it tough to provide their families with a plentiful Christmas. More recently, members of the National Honor Society have focused their efforts closer to home, providing meals for families of Whitehall high school students or those close to them.
It's a mission NHS adviser Sarah Narsavage said is twofold: Both community members and the students benefit from the service, but not all the payoff is tangible.
"When the students see their combined effort, it has a big impact," she said. "They can see that even a small contribution can make a difference when all put together."
Because participation is so great, a large number of local families benefit from the students' collective generosity.
The NHS will launch its collection effort Monday, Dec. 3, asking students to contribute nonperishable items. For every item donated, students earn points that can be used at the end of the drive during a schoolwide auction conducted by a professional auctioneer.
Items up for grabs include everything from home-baked brownies and cookies to ticket packages from Zoombezi Bay.
The items for the auction are donated by staff members and local businesses.
Last year, the NHS was able to provide food to around 35 local Whitehall families after collecting 3,500 individual items. Thanks to the Whitehall/Bexley Rotary Club's donation of $2,000, NHS members also are able to purchase additional meat and vegetables, rounding out not only a Christmas feast, but several more dinners during December.
"We build boxes with a little something for everyone," Narsavage said. "Those who receive the food will get several meals out of this."
According to numbers recently released by the Ohio Department of Education, 79.4 percent of Whitehall students are economically disadvantaged. Narsavage said when NHS volunteers get ready to help distribute the food boxes, she prepares them for what they might see. Often, she said, families they know will arrive to pick up the donations and she tells students they should be sensitive to this.
"It's hard for many to ask for help," she cautions her volunteers. She said she reminds them to be respectful and courteous of recipients' privacy.
The collection drive was started by the school's DECA organization, which operated the mission for around 20 years. When that group dissolved, NHS members didn't want the student-led effort to die with it, so they took over the annual drive.
Anyone interested in donating items for the event's auction may call Narsavage at 614-417-5100.