COVINGTON --The spirit of giving is evident in some Newton County schools. Since Monday, students at 10 of the county's schools have been donating canned goods to be donated to the Newton County Food Pantry and The Salvation Army.
Jerry Gee, attendance officer with the Newton County School System, has organized the food drive for the past four years. He said students and teachers donated more than 16,000 canned items last year and he expects to collect even more this year.
"On the very first day, South Salem Elementary School collected 634 cans," Gee said.
"Based on South Salem, I think we're doing well. I think we'll surpass last year, at least that's our hope."
Jody Carver, The Salvation Army's service center director, said the organization relies heavily on the schools' food drive.
"I think this is an awesome learning experience for the students, and it's the single largest food drive for the whole year," she said. "It's a big deal for us."
Carver said the need for charitable giving in Newton County persists, especially as the economy remains in a slump and food prices continue to rise.
"We're seeing a lot of elderly people, a lot of senior citizens, everyday people trying to make the decision to keep the lights on or put food on the table," she said. "The cost of food is a huge part of that."
Carver said The Salvation Army accepts financial donations, regular household donations and new, unwrapped toys for Christmas at the service center located at 5193 Washington St. in Covington.
"We have a great need for food, especially this time of year," she said.
The three greatest needs are canned meat, instant breakfast items, such as breakfast bars or instant oatmeal, and rice.
And that's where the schools have stepped in.
Gee said bins have been set up at the participating schools -- Indian Creek Middle, East Newton Elementary, Fairview Elementary, Livingston Elementary, Middle Ridge Elementary, Oak Hill Elementary, Porterdale Elementary, South Salem Elementary, Eastside High and the Theme School at Ficquett -- as well as the NCSS central office on Newton Drive.
The canned food drive will continue through Nov. 11 and the donations will then be taken to the Food Pantry and The Salvation Army.
Middle school students at the Newton County Theme School are also pitching in to help in other ways.
Cathy Moll, a sixth-grade teacher at the Theme School, along with one of the school's parents, have coordinated collecting cans of disinfectant spray to donate to the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter in light of the upcoming flu season.
Moll said Sarah Vinson and her son, Eli, took food to the homeless shelter a couple of weeks ago after the NCTS Sixth Grade dance. At the time, 72 people, including 24 children, were living at the shelter.
"Because of the upcoming flu season, they were in need of Lysol spray disinfectant," Moll said. "Mrs. Vinson mentioned it to me, and I mentioned it toour sixth-graders, and the drive was under way.The students are so happy to help, and manysaid that they'd never thought about a homelessshelter needing disinfectant to help its residents get through the flu and cold season."
The school began collecting the disinfectant on Oct. 25 and will continue through Nov. 10. A group of sixth-grade students will deliver the cans during the week before Thanksgiving break, Moll said.