Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 23, 2013

Area youth collect food for Kokomo Rescue Mission

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

— Thirteen-year-old Ty Gingerich knocked on doors and collected canned foods for those in need on his day off Sunday because helping others is something Jesus would do.

“I’m trying to be more like Jesus,” he said.

He joined more than 100 other area youth who pounded the pavement to collect canned foods for the Kokomo Rescue Mission during the annual “Yes, We Can” food drive.

The event brought in 18,042 pounds of food for the rescue mission.

It didn’t come without some work, though.

On Sunday afternoon, 54 teams of kids set out on a scavenger hunt to find the foods the rescue mission needs the most — canned fruits, canned vegetables and canned meals like ravioli.

All canned foods were accepted, of course, but those items were the ones that would earn kids prizes because of their demand at the rescue mission.

Each team chose a neighborhood and set out to knock on as many doors there as possible.

Fifteen-year-old Hannah Gollner and her team from Mount Gilead Baptist Church spent hours walking through Indian Heights Subdivision in search of canned foods.

Their job really wasn’t that tough, though. The people there were generous and prepared, she said.

“One lady was waiting out on her porch with cans,” she said. “It was awesome.”

Another woman in the neighborhood asked the kids for a box and disappeared. When Gollner started wondering where the lady was, she reappeared, dragging the box behind her. She had filled it with 10 different foods.

Thirteen-year-old Ellie Tice was collecting as many cans of green beans as she could find Sunday. But sometimes, people just didn’t have green beans in their home.

Instead, some of them gave foods that Tice said were, well, interesting.

“It’s really fun to see what people come up with,” she said.

Her team collected weird foods like cream of shrimp, corned beef and anchovies.

“The anchovies were in a glass jar, and you could see this little skeleton thing,” she said. “It was gross.”

Officials with the rescue mission, though, decided that the most bizarre food of the day was pickled okra.

Kids laughed when they heard about that.

But many knew the event had a serious mission. They were there to help others.

And Tice was happy to do it.

“I did this just to help out around the community,” she said. “It’s our turn to give back.”

A woman named Nikki told the kids their generosity will have a profound impact on her life.

Nikki, who asked that her last name be left out, is a resident at the rescue mission’s domestic violence shelter.

She lives there with her 3-year-old daughter.

And the kids’ work on Sunday will ensure that she and her daughter have access to healthy, balanced meals every day.

That’s not something she had when she was a kid. When Nikki was 12 years old, she and her brother ran away from home.

Their mom was making bad decisions, she said. Nikki and her brother were afraid they’d end up in foster care and be separated from each other.

To prevent that, they left home and lived on the streets.

“We found food any way we could,” she told the kids.

Sometimes they ate food from dumpsters behind restaurants. Around Halloween, they’d collect as much candy as they could and sometimes eat only that through much of the winter, she said.

She wants more for her daughter, she said. And the food the kids collected will help.

“I thank you so much,” she told the youth gathered Sunday. “I know my 3-year-old thanks you, too.”

The food drive will help feed people from six counties, said Anna Brown, special events coordinator at the rescue mission.

The mission serves three meals a day to its residents at the men’s shelter and at the domestic violence shelter. It also provides two meals a day to anyone in the community who needs help.

“We just open the doors and say, ‘come on in,’” Brown said. “If you’re just having a tough day or want to socialize, we’re open for you.”

This canned food drive is all about letting struggling families know that the issues they face have not been forgotten, said Van Taylor, executive director of the Kokomo Rescue Mission.

“We’re helping people who are experiencing food insecurity,” he said. “We’re do it to show compassion, to show love.”

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com.