Lincolnton High School’s Beta Club students recently collected more than 2,000 canned-food items for Christian Ministry of Lincoln County, beating their yearly contender, the East Lincoln High School Beta Club, by nearly 1,000 cans.
The rival schools compete in the friendly competition each year exactly two weeks before their football teams duke it out in a much-anticipated conference match.
Lincolnton High School students delivered the cans to Christian Ministry on Monday.
“We’re just really thrilled with the turnout the kids showed,” Beta Club head and Social Studies Department Chair Patricia Clark said.
Several of the school’s students routinely volunteer at the local nonprofit organization throughout the year, according to Christian Ministry’s Executive Director Susan Brymer.
Clark anticipates the school will participate in similar food drive fundraisers near the Christmas holiday and next spring.
“The need is year round,” Clark said.
The need is also currently more dire than Christian Ministry officials have seen in several years.
So far this year, the organization has fed more than 5,100 local families, and with the number of soup-kitchen eaters tripling from 50 to 150 on average each day to 1,100 more hungry families requesting food assistance than this time last September, nonprofit officials are at their wits’ end. The organization has also started purchasing more meals from Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln for their LINC Meals home-delivery service. The percentage of individuals unable to pay for the particular food program has risen from 40 to 75 percent, Brymer said.
Each time families interview for Christian Ministry assistance, it’s evident they are hungry.
“The interview usually ends in the sentence, ‘And I need food,’” she said. “We’re doing everything we know; we just don’t know what else to do.”
Students are also going without food.
“They (high school volunteers) might be feeding the hungry person who sits in their classroom, and they don’t have a clue,” Brymer said.
Since early summer, Christian Ministry has been purchasing their own items for their four different food service programs and have given away nearly $1 million in food pantry items alone for their food box program.
“For the first time, we’re out of soup,” Brymer said. She was astonished that the pantry could run low on what is usually such a hot, common commodity in their facility.
In what she considers to be the “greatest and longest period of time” the community has endured a “recession of this kind,” Brymer is most concerned the organization will still be in great need around the holidays when roughly 800 additional food boxes will be required to feed the area.
While each food program has its own budget, officials are having to use whatever money is available from all four budgets to keep each program going.
“We try to work together,” Brymer said. “We’re all about feeding people.”