Crothersville students make special delivery



When she was younger, Kate Frazier and her five siblings received boxes of food and toys around Christmastime.

Members of the Crothersville FFA chapter and Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department and others in the community would deliver tons of food and toys to Vernon Township residents each year.

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“That was Christmas, and that was probably the best part,” Frazier said. “We had a date, and we remembered when we were getting stuff.”

With a large family, the food may not have lasted too long, but the kids were able to enjoy the toys for a lot longer.

“We were just really grateful for it,” Frazier said.

On Saturday, she had an opportunity to be on the giving side of the Crothersville FFA Toy and Food Drive.

Frazier was among the 65 volunteers who helped with the 29th annual event, packing boxes of toys and food into firetrucks, trucks with trailers and other vehicles and taking them to 96 families in Vernon Township.

The volunteers included 29 FFA members, 17 FFA alumni and 18 firefighters and community members.

Frazier, now a freshman at Crothersville High School, said she had no idea what all it took to make the toy and food drive happen.

“I got these boxes when I was little, and I am very much more appreciative of all of the work that is put in them,” she said. “It’s a very nice feeling to be able to give back to something that we got as children.”

She also was proud of the small southeastern Jackson County community for coming together.

“It’s nice to know that people still care, that people are still there that want to help,” Frazier said. “It’s good to see that people will donate their time to help other people, and I think that’s an important part of being a community.”

A record 9.5 tons of food were collected and delivered, said Crothersville FFA adviser Linda Myers.

From Thanksgiving until the week of delivery, people called Myers to share information about someone they know who could benefit from the project. She wrote down their address and the sex and ages of the people.

This year, it ranged from one person to a family of 10.

“Nobody knows that they are getting anything today,” Myers said.

Proceeds from booth rental, pork burger sales and a silent auction at the FFA’s annual craft show in November, a grant from Walmart and a donation from Premier Companies and Land O’Lakes were the big contributors to this year’s drive. Combined with donations from individuals, they had about $12,000 to spend on food and toys.

Also, the elementary school got involved by doing a canned food drive contest with the winning class receiving an ice cream party and a behind-the-scenes look at the toy and food drive program. Plus, the junior-senior high school classes brought in food items to participate in a wall decorating contest.

In the past, Myers and some of her FFA members would go to local stores and buy food and toys.

Now, she and FFA alumni Deven Lemen and Madison Isenhower order the items from the stores and arrange to pick them all up.

“They’ve got it shrink wrapped, and we go pick it up,” Myers said. “(Isenhower) got two semis for us to haul it here and borrowed a skid steer from the town, and they unloaded it. Three hours, it was done.”

FFA members spent last week sorting the items into boxes, bags and laundry baskets to be ready for delivery.

On Saturday, volunteers received an envelope with a number and the home address. The number helped them determine whether the items will be in a hallway or in a classroom.

Two hallways had items for families of five or more people, who either got nine or 11 boxes of nonperishable food, a laundry basket with toiletries, a bag of toys, a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs and a bag of potatoes.

Two classrooms had items for couples, individuals and small families. They received three boxes of food, a laundry basket, a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs. Some people also got a fruit basket.

“We’re targeting elderly people. We’re targeting children,” Myers said. “I want this to be easy for kids to eat while they’re home at Christmas. I want kids to be able to open up soup and crackers and be able to have a meal.”

Volunteers worked together to load the items into firetrucks, trucks with trailers and other vehicles and deliver it all to homes.

To keep them energized, Myers served them breakfast beforehand and lunch afterwards.

Myers started the toy and food drive 29 years ago and continues to be grateful for everyone who helps.

One year, she told her officers she wasn’t going to do it anymore, and one of them said, “This will be your legacy.” That has kept her going.

“This is my family,” she said with tears welling in her eyes. “So many people will go to church and put on plays. This is my play.”

FFA members Cassie Defibaugh and Kalynda Hoevener were among the volunteers.

For Defibaugh, a junior, it was her first time being involved. Hoevener, a senior, has participated since she was in sixth grade.

“I have a lot more into it now,” said Hoevener, president of Crothersville FFA. “When I was younger, I didn’t really help that much. Now, I see the whole scope of it. It’s really neat how we just know that we’re helping people.”

Defibaugh said it was interesting to be a part of the process.

“I think it’s really amazing how people just come out on the day when they should be with their family. We’re on Christmas break, and we’re all out here helping,” she said. “I think that’s really thoughtful.”

On some deliveries, Hoevener said she has been able to meet the people receiving the items.

“We walk in and they say they love us and stuff, and we don’t even know them,” she said. “I think that’s great.”

Both girls said it’s great to see the community come together for a good cause.

“I think it’s cool how we all come together just to help each other. That kind of shows where we come from and what small towns do,” Hoevener said.

“I feel like we’re making a great impact because a lot of people haven’t answered (their door when delivering), but I know they’ll love it,” Defibaugh said.

Even though she graduates in the spring, Hoevener said she hopes to be able to continue to help with the project.

“My parents are here today, and we’re all just a big part of it,” she said.

Myers said she already has an idea of how to celebrate the 30th year of the toy and food drive next year.

She hopes to top this year’s 9.5 tons of food. That will require even more people to donate toys, food or money toward the effort.

“It’s not so much raising the money,” Myers said. “It’s bringing the awareness to it that we’re doing this for 30 years.”

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