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Mount Angel School District smashes Toy & Food Drive record as young students give a couple principals a silly-string wash

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - St. Mary Principal Katie Voss and Mount Angel Middle School Principal Jared Tiecke get a silly-spring saturation from kindergarteners as students celebrated the success of the school districts annual Toy and Food Drive.A merriment hung in the air at St. Mary's Public School in the early afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 19, as the elementary-school students streamed into the gymnasium for the monthly Eagle Virtue Award Assembly.

It coincided with the holiday dress-up day, and a lot of youngsters gussied up with some creative garb fitting to the season. There were also a lot of plaudits, award winners and even a competitive relay in the mix.

But perhaps the biggest injection of excitement derived from anticipation as St. Mary Principal Katie Voss and Mount Angel Middle School Principal Jared Tiecke were about to receive a silly-string saturation by a class of kindergarteners.

That did prove to be a spirited, bleacher-stomping moment. But the backdrop for it was a very focused and serious one.

The silly spray opportunity was afforded to Angela Young's kindergarten class as it bested all others during the 3rd annual Toy and Food Drive for Mission Benedict. Young's tots tallied 317 items, pushed on by Paula Kraemer's second graders, who notched a second-place 308.

Overall, Mount Angel's third Toy and Food Drive easily surpassed the past two years combined. It's as if the district-wide cause has taken on a momentum of its own.PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Chart at St. Marys Public School in Mount Angel shows the results of class-to-class competition in the annual Toy and Food Drive. District wide, students smashed earlier totals collected.

"It has been a big success; we more than doubled the previous two years," said St. Mary's counselor Lucas Anderson, who coordinates the drive, right down to getting the silly-string cans into the hands of the winning students.

Anderson said in it's first year the district brought in roughly 900 items and raised that number to 1,500 last year. This year saw St. Mary's classes draw a combined 2,630, Mount Angel Middle School added 2,234, and Kennedy High School collected 815 pounds of food.

"This year's drive far exceeded our goals and expectations," Voss said.

Beyond the numbers, the enthusiasm spurring the drive is a point of pride for Mount Angel.

"Our kids are just amazing.  This accomplishment is a testament to the level of compassion our students, staff and community have towards supporting those in need," Mount Angel School District Troy Stoops said. "Our kids grow up learning, in our schools and at home, how to give back to the community through service and volunteerism.  This Toy & Food Drive is a perfect example of what we believe in, and demonstrate, as a united community of learners."

Stoops stressed that the school district's strategic plan spells that out, with stated values "We embrace diversity and believe we are stronger together (while the district) honors the culture and traditions of our small community through involvement and volunteerism." 

This drive will certainly benefit those in need locally as the toys and food items go to St. Joseph Family Shelter and Mission Benedict, Catholic Community Services programs helping economically disadvantaged through a partnership with Benedictive Sisters of Mount Angel, St. Mary Parish and Mount Angel Abbey.

"The Toy Drive is an important part of Mission Benedict's Christmas outreach," said Mona Roberto Hayes, chief communications and resource development officer for Catholic Community Services Foundation. "Together with the Christmas food box program, which is provided through the generosity of St. Mary Parish, the Knights of Columbus and local volunteers, the School District toy drive brings the joy of Christmas and the spirit of giving to families facing adversity."

These programs and the giving prove to be difference makers for many over the holiday season.

"One hundred and thirteen individuals and families signed up to receive Christmas food boxes this year. Approximately half of those who signed up for a food box also signed up to choose toys for their children," Hayes stressed. "It is our belief that the toy drive brightens Christmas memories for children in need, and reduces the stress parents feel when they do not have the means to purchase gifts for their children.

"We are truly grateful to the school district for helping to make this possible."

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