By Emily Attebery
After gathering food for the Art Club’s Biannual Canned Food Drive for a decade, the group is ready to take on its eleventh year.
“It’s become a tradition really. It’s something that we look forward to every year,” said Art Professor Paul Jones.
What started out as a competition between TJC, UT Tyler and Texas College to see who could raise the most cans for Tyler AIDS Services, ended up not being a competition at all compared to TJC’s numbers. The Tyler CARES Food Pantry is the new name for where these cans are delivered.
“We ended up beating the other schools by 1,500 cans. From that year on they just came directly to us, and so we started doing a canned food drive every semester just to help their food pantry,” said Professor and Art Department Chair Derrick White.
Though the years seem to have merged together since it started, each time remains a beneficial experience for the students and Tyler CARES.
“It has benefited us tremendously,” said Billy Harrell, NT Coordinator at Tyler CARES Food Pantry.
Clients who get services from Tyler CARES are normally on social security, disability services or are single mothers. Tyler CARES offers weekly and monthly food boxes to their clients. The majority of their pantry is filled whenever the TJC Art Club puts on their drive.
“It’s almost like Christmas to us here when we get food in, cause I’m telling you, we celebrate,” said Harrell, “matter of fact, last time I had to re-arrange the whole pantry because of the amount that the drive had accumulated for us, and that’s a good problem to have”.
Although Tyler CARES is a nonprofit organization, they often have struggles to be able to serve their clients the way they’d like. That’s why they always look forward to seeing the volunteers from TJC come in with their truckloads of cans.
“It’s always neat because you see what their pantry looks like beforehand, and then we pretty much fill it up. It’s a really cool feeling,” said Jones.
There have been a couple of times in the past where not enough donations were given, and Art Club had to use their own funds to buy groceries. Fortunately, Brookshire’s would always cut their prices in half.
“I think it has taken off over the years, but even at the beginning it was pretty popular and we got a lot of stuff,” said Jones.
Some fun memories of last year’s delivery are part of what makes the drive momentous. On Delivery Day, it started pouring rain, soaking all of the volunteers loading the trucks and the flimsy cardboard boxes. Professor White bought everyone ponchos and they endured the storm until they got the job done.
“I think what I enjoy most about it is helping the students help others,” said White.
White believes there’s a difference when able to see the volunteering process first hand. A lot of what is donated ends up being the only source of food people have, particularly during Thanksgiving.
“Some of these people aren’t going to have a Thanksgiving unless we donate to this can food drive,” said White.
Community Service is the third promise TJC makes to its students, and the Art Club’s Food Drive every year is an example of that. The hope of this drive is not only providing resources for those in the area who need it, but also sending a message to the students on how important it is to do something for someone else.
“It’s very rewarding I think and hopefully that sparks that interest in other community services they can do once they’ve left Tyler Junior College, and know that they [themselves] are members of this community. We’re all here to help each other out,” said White.
Non-Perishable food donations can be made to the Art Club Canned Food Drive at the drop off location in Jenkins Hall Art Department Lobby or pick-ups can be scheduled by (903) 510-2233. The food drive ends Friday April 29, 2016.