For the 25th year in a row, Delview Secondary’s Thanks for Giving campaign saw thousands of non-perishable food items donated to Deltassist and the Surrey Food Bank in an extravagant one-night food drive.
The food drive, started by teachers Ron McNeill, Barb Woodford and Sandy Ferguson in 1992 under the name “Ten-in-One” (10,000 items collected in one night), sees hundreds of students and school staff go out into the community to collect cans and other non-perishables.
This year, to mark the event’s 25th anniversary, the campaign had set a goal of 25,000 cans.
“That’s more aspirational,” Jonathan Kung, a Thanks For Giving teacher-sponsor, said weeks before the food drive. “Whatever we get would be great.”
On Oct. 26, 124 teams went out to collected non-perishable food items from the community, including 450 students, a number of alumni and some teachers. Each team was assigned to a particular area in North Delta, using a colour-coded map that was created back in 1992.
The map wasn’t the only thing that came back from 1992 — McNeill, Woodford and Ferguson were recognized during the opening ceremonies for their efforts in creating and maintaining the event.
“It’s the little school who could,” McNeill said. “It is, it has been and it continues to be the little school that could.”
McNeil spoke at the opening ceremony, along with Mayor Lois Jackson, school board chair Laura Dixon, Surrey Food Bank executive director Feezah Jaffer and Deltassist executive director Julie Chadwick.
The opening ceremony had the feel of a rowdy school assembly, with teachers looking sternly at the chatty students and long pauses as speakers tried to regain control of the room. But, eventually, the ceremonial portion was over and the students were off, hopping into their parents’ cars with cardboard boxes and plastic bags and driving out into the night.
It was 6 p.m. when they left, and by 8 p.m. the sorting and boxing of the goods was well underway.
Organizing the thousands of donated food items was less like a well-oiled machine and more of a frantic attempt to keep up with the incoming carloads. Most items were expected: Campbell’s soup cans, boxes of macaroni and cheese, instant noodles and cans of beans. Others were less so, like the two 2.8 litre cans of MexiCasa jalapeno cheese sauce and the container of crab pate.
From the sorting frenzy in Delview’s wood shop, the now-boxed food was transferred to the hallway to be counted.
In McNeill’s opening speech, he cautioned the students to not be too focused on the final number.
“I don’t want, if they don’t quite get there, for them to feel like they haven’t been successful,” he said afterwards. “Because the fact that they’re out there, bringing back one more can than we had before makes it successful.”
He needn’t have worried.
Just before 10 p.m. — the latest finish teacher Jonathan Kung can remember — the final count came in. Students crowded around the boxes piled high in front of the stage, and the Grade 12s went up to reveal the numbers.
A one. Another one. Then a four. One of the teachers told the students to then reveal the number in the ten thousandth spot: a two.
Cheering erupted. They had collected more than 20,411 cans, but they didn’t know how much more.
The final number was revealed. It was a six.
A deafening roar enveloped the gym as students hugged each other and snapped photos, documenting their success. It was a significant feat: 10,000 more cans than last year’s Thanks for Giving and nearly 1,500 more than the anniversary goal.
The celebration lasted a long time, followed by a group photo and the ceremonial procession of boxes from the gymnasium to the front hallway.
“I’m tired, but elated,” Kung said. He was helping carry boxes to the front of the school so they could be picked up by Deltassist and the Surrey Food Bank the next morning.
He had worked with the Thanks for Giving committee of 15 students since the beginning of the year to prepare for the night, and it was an unqualified success.
But, “success to us means different things,” he said. “It’s not just making the 25,000 and going over it, but it’s really doing something powerful for the community and getting students the feeling that there’s something out there that’s greater than just themselves.”
“In the end,” he continued, “if that’s what they get out of this, then we’re very happy.”