By Sabrah Shipman
This year marks the 10th biannual anniversary for the TJC Art Club’s canned food drive. Every year since 2005, all of the food collected has been delivered straight to Tyler AIDS Services’ food pantry.
Tyler AIDS Services is an organization committed to assisting people living with AIDS, or people that have been affected by AIDS in some way, by giving them opportunities to improve their quality of life. In some cases, people struggling with AIDS are very ill. They may not be able to work, or they may have lost their job because of their condition. As a result, they don’t have the income or resources to buy basic necessities like food.
“[Tyler AIDS Services] has been around a long time. We started way back in the late 80s,” said Demetra Darden, Tyler AIDS Services Representative. “We are currently helping over 200 people.”
Since the 1980s, however, Darden says they have helped so many people she can’t even think that high.
“We’ve had so many. Some have deceased, but we still have quite a few we still see and help,” said Darden.
Back in 2005, a woman named Charlene Steed contacted TJC Art Department Chair and Professor Derrick White asking if the Art Club would start doing a canned food drive for Tyler AIDS Services. At the time, her husband had recently passed away from a case of AIDS he constricted from a blood transfusion. White and the TJC Art Club gladly agreed and have been having the drive ever since.
The canned food drive started out as a competition between TJC, Texas College, and the University of Texas at Tyler. TJC ended up beating the other schools by 1,500 cans. Since then, Tyler AIDS Services has relied solely on TJC.
“Tyler AIDS depends on us so much that we cover one-third of their overall operating budget with the donations we bring,” said White.
The drive goes on every fall semester in October as well as every spring semester in April.
“We keep it going in the spirit of [Charlene Steed] asking us to. It’s a great community service. We get our art appreciation classes involved and our Art Club members are involved. Sometimes we’ll go shopping as a group,” said White. “It is a good community thing in terms of the comradery that takes place here in the department to get it done.”
The TJC Art Club is not the only campus organization that participates in the drive. Sigma Kappa Delta, the Surgical Program, and the West Campus do as well.
Linda Gary, Founder and Advisor of the Psi Gamma Tyler Chapter of Sigma Kappa Delta, believes community service is part of a well-rounded education.
“I think it’s important that our students learn to give back and really get to experience the rewards of helping others,” said Gary. “Helping those in need is an important part of all student organizations and an important part of TJC’s promises. Promise number three is reaching out to others. I’m really proud of us for that.”
Roughly 2,000 cans are donated every year. There are so many cans by the time the drive is over the bed and interior of White’s truck are completely filled with them.
“There is outstanding participation. It just astounds me at what the Art Club and SKD are able to collect. It’s just amazing because the Art Club and SKD are not really large student organizations. Our members just give and give and give,” said Gary.
As cans continue to pile into the art department before the drive is over, art students are known for utilizing their talents and creating sculptures out of them.
“We have had six-foot, towering sculptures built out of canned food in here,” said White.
Non-perishable donations can be dropped off in the Jenkins Hall Art Department Lobby. The food drives ends Friday October 30, 2015.