Food — it’s a big part of the holidays for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and members of the Fort Benning Torch Club know it. They’re collecting canned goods through the end of December to help make the holidays special for low-income families in the valley area.
“Corn, yams, grape jelly, soups, peas, tomatoes anything you can bring will make a difference,” said seventh-grader Daniel Hurtado, “because a lot of people don’t have food at all. It just helps people that need help — that’s what I like to do.”
Daniel said he joined the club a year and a half ago because he wanted to help his community. By donating meals for Thanksgiving, he thinks it will make the day “more memorable” for the recipients.
“I think it’s important for everyone to have a nice Thanksgiving,” said eighth-grader Maylani Conley, “instead of just the people who are wealthy.”
Working with Brown Bag of Columbus, club members encouraged people to “adopt a chicken” — turkeys are too large for individuals — that would in turn be given to an elderly person in Columbus or Phenix City.
“The clients are very, very pleased and happy to get a chicken. It’s just an American tradition,” said Rufus Riggs, a volunteer with the nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1987.
Even after the Thanksgiving program, people can donate money or canned goods to help the elderly.
“Our cash contributions from donors are down, (but) the need continues to rise,” Riggs said. “Most times, the elderly we deal with are people who are retired and the income is not sufficient to meet their living requirements. They don’t have enough money to go for the full month. So what we do is on the third week of the month, we provide a bag of groceries. Every can of beans makes a difference.”
“It’s important we remember those who are less fortunate,” said Pauline Henry, Torch Club advisor. “This particular project is focused on that. We’re trying to show the youth that it’s their responsibility to take of those who have paved the way for them before. Someone always has to be putting something in for the next generation. They’re making a difference early.”
A division of the Boys and Girls Club, Torch Club is open to all middle-schoolers enrolled with Child, Youth & School Services. The club’s focus is community service.
“It’s an opportunity for me to help others,” Maylani said. “A lot of people say it’s better to give than to receive. It’s a motto I believe in. I might have something other people don’t have so I’ll help them out, provide for them as much as I can.”
For those who want to give this holiday season, the club is accepting cash and canned good donations through the week of Christmas. To drop off a donation, visit CYSS headquarters in Building 1056 on McIver Street or call 706-545-3070 to arrange a time to have the donations picked up.
“I love helping people,” Maylani said. “I enjoy it, and it gives me a good feeling. But for people to join in on my projects, it makes me feel (even) better.”