Helena students, bus drivers collect 3,500 food items for those in need

Published 4:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2018

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

HELENA – Plenty of local individuals and families that struggle to put food on the table will be well fed this holiday season thanks to the generosity of students and bus drivers at Helena Elementary School and Helena Intermediate School.

Both schools came together from Nov. 26 through Dec. 3 to participate in the second annual bus driver challenge where students collected as many canned goods and non-perishable food items as possible on the bus they ride to school in a fun beneficial challenge.

During the weeklong challenge, boxes were set up on each bus where riders placed their food items. Each food item collected counted as one point for the driver of the bus.

On Thursday, Dec. 13, it was time to recognize the winning riders and bus drivers of the challenge as each school held a special assembly complete with prizes from local restaurants, snacks and more.

In all, students from both schools collected more than 3,500 food items in the weeklong challenge that were donated to Vineyard Family Services, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church and Oak Mountain Missions Ministries.

The winning bus drivers where students collected the most food items were Jerry Sims, bus No. 05-16 of Helena Elementary School and Donna Channell, bus No. 17-05 of Helena Intermediate School.

These students were rewarded with coupons for free food donated by local Helena businesses including Subway, Zaxby’s, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Golden Rule BBQ, Marco’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Jack’s, The Depot, Walmart Neighborhood Market and more.

One student who went above and beyond was Helena Intermediate fifth grader Eli Ray who brought in 752 food donations by himself during the challenge.

“Eli went above and beyond for more than half of our can total so he’s getting a $25 gift card to Marco’s Pizza,” Ray’s bus driver Channell said.

Ray took the time to go door-to-door on his way to collecting the 752 food items.

“Sometimes people just need help,” Ray said. “So, that’s what we are supposed to do. We help them.”

Helena Intermediate School Counselor Shelly Johnson was also a big part of helping coordinate where the collected food items went and how the food would be picked up and donated.

Moving forward, HIS bus driver and creator of the bus driver challenge John Rodgers wants the challenge to continue to generate more interest each year in hopes that it could grow to be a county-wide challenge.