Just one of Turlock Together’s iconic blue barrels can weigh up to 475 pounds when filled to the brim with canned food items, making Turlock Junior High School’s recent donation of 31 containers all the more impressive.
Seventh and eighth graders at the school banned together over the past few weeks to collect 8,000 cans for Turlock Together, providing 14,725 pounds of food for the city’s less fortunate this holiday season. Turlock Together typically picks up around 130 barrels throughout the city each year, said volunteer Willis VanRuler, meaning the junior high’s donation will account for about 25 percent of the organization’s total haul.
“This means everything,” said Willis. “If no one contributes, then we have nothing to hand out to families. These kids just put everyone in the Christmas spirit.”
Turlock Together is a conglomerate of local businesses, churches, nonprofits and organizations that share the aim of providing for the less fortunate during the holiday season, and each year, TJHS contributes to that effort. Last year, the school collected 20 barrels – still an impressive feat, but topped by this year’s effort.
While all students are encouraged to donate to the cause via blue barrels scattered across campus, History teachers Dustin Christian, Jeff Kleiner and Kayla Amador added a friendly competition between their classes into the mix, collecting a total of 4,639 cans between the three.
It was Christian’s class who came out on top by collecting nearly 2,000 cans, and the sheer amount of food donated was shocking to the teacher, who didn’t offer any extra credit or incentive for students to participate.
“We promote this without promise of extra credit or bonus points – absolutely no academic reward,” said Christian. “The kids do it because they want to do it, which makes it even more tremendous.”
The top can-bringer in Christian’s class was DJ Curtice, who was able to donate a total of 149 food items. Curtice said he first asked both of his grandmas for any extra food they could give to the cause, then spent hours walking door-to-door to ensure the city’s less fortunate wouldn’t go without this holiday season.
“I just wanted to give food to the less fortunate…and win the competition,” Curtice said with a smile. “I know a lot of people will be getting Christmas dinner now that wouldn’t have before.”