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Blandford Elementary School pacesetter in Countywide Food Drive
Countywide Food Drive
Fifth-grade teacher/Beta Club sponsor Syndi Bradley, Woodmen of the World Financial Representative Bill Ross, Principal LaToya Jones and Manna House Executive Director Lisa Bush (from left) pose during a Sept. 21 check presentation at Blandford Elementary School. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON — Blandford Elementary School has a tradition of stepping up to the plate during the annual Countywide Food Drive.

Students, faculty members and administrators added to their legacy by securing first place in the Sept. 13-17 event that supports the Manna House Ministries Food Pantry. The school, one of 15 in the district, was presented $1,000 for its efforts.

Blandford averaged than nine donated items per its 803 students.

“We promote this,” Principal LaToya Jones said Sept. 21. “During this time, we have a little competition going within each grade level, and within each grade level we have competition within the classrooms. If a student brings in five or more items, they receive a dress-down pass, a crazy hat pass or crazy socks pass.

“Also, one thing that I think really gets kids going is that every day there is a mystery item. The kids get extra points for bringing in those items.”

The competition among all the schoolsin the district is the brainchild of Bill Ross of Woodmen of the World.

“He got the idea of organizing it because it was not organized effort before,” said Lisa Bush, executive director of Manna House. “He created this concept that his company would present a prize award to the school that collected the most food (based on a per-capita calculation). It’s an incentive for the schools to earn that.”

More than 23,000 pounds of food was collected during the 2019 Countywide Food Drive. The 2020 version was nixed because of COVID-19.

“When I pulled my numbers for this year, we collected over 40,000 pounds,” Bush said. “It basically doubled. Every school doubled it’s efforts of (2019).”

In addition to the feeling of doing a good deed, the students were motivated by Dress Down Days, Ice Cream Days and awards.

“I think the way the teachers, counselors and principals at the elementary level pushed it this year was wonderful,” Bush said.  

Ross said he and his Woodmen of the World counterparts are pleased with the results.

“They just believe it’s the right thing to do in the community,” he said. “The right thing to do is to give back It’s an important thing that we are doing.

“Our national focus project is hunger.”

Bush said some of the items collected in the Countywide Food Drive will be distributed in Manna House Thanksgiving Boxes of Hope.

“This specific thing is a way to get kids involved so that they can see how what they do benefits others,” Ross said.

South Effingham High School and South Effingham Elementary School finished second and third in the food drive, also earning cash awards.