When you enter Loy Norrix and go through your day, you never realize how many students actually come to school hungry. Many students here at Loy Norrix go home and aren’t able to eat. For many, the lunches and breakfasts served by the school may be their only meal of the day so when these students go home for the weekend, there’s no telling what they’ll eat.
That is why Loy Norrix is so blessed to be able to have our very own food drive. During the month of December, food is collected from classrooms and then sorted into care baskets to be given to people in need. In 2016, Loy Norrix collected almost five thousand items to benefit Loy Norrix families.
“I think it’s amazing that the food goes to Norrix students. I believe that the food going to Norrix students from Norrix students shows how much we care about our school and community and each other,” said senior Arika Hawkins.
The Loy Norrix food drive wasn’t always run by Peacejam, an international organization that works towards improving the community, which was established at Norrix in 2003.
First the Kalamazoo Area Food Drive was run by the Black Police Officers Organization. Then Loy Norrix staff member, Sveri May, helped collect food for this drive with her government class. Then May started a Peacejam club at Norrix, so they took over helping May with the drive. Now Peacejam has their own food drive to continue the good work done by the drive.
In addition to the food drive, Sveri May is also the head Peacejam Advisor. She works hard to better our school and our community. She is one of the many teachers here that does so much for all of Loy Norrix. She cares deeply about her students and works hard to see all students succeed.
“My government class and I always did the food drive until Peacejam came into existence. We would study poverty and the government’s way of dealing with it. We took school field trips during the day to Loaves and Fishes, The Gospel Mission, and Ministry with Community and we’d do service projects at each one,” continued May. “Then we would work on the food drive. We would gather close to and some years over 7 thousand food items with 7,776 being the most.”
The Black Police Officers Organization that helped put the drive together would come and collect the thousands of food items on Thursday instead of Friday like they usually did, since Loy Norrix gathered more than all of the other area high schools combined. They would go get all the food from the other schools on Friday.
After the food was collected from Loy Norrix and all the other schools, it would be brought to the Hazel Gray Building at the Kalamazoo Fairgrounds and sorted. Then Friday evening, at the Hazel Gray Building, State Senators, representatives, mayors, along with Loy Norrix students would all help sort the food into care baskets, and the police officers and volunteers would deliver the food baskets Saturday morning to the families in need.
“Loy Norrix families started out getting only 10 food care baskets from the Kalamazoo Food Drive. I told them if we’re providing that much food then we need more than just ten baskets, we have students and families here that really need those food baskets. Four years ago we had gotten it up to 44 food baskets,” said May.
Three years ago Loy Norrix and the city of Kalamazoo took a huge hit when The Kalamazoo Area Food Drive abruptly ended.
“They decided that it was too big and too much, so they weren’t going to do it any more. My Peacejam students were devastated. They came to me asking ‘Mrs. May, what are we gonna do?’ And I said I didn’t know and to just give me a day and we’ll wrap our heads around this. That’s when we came up with the idea to do our very own Loy Norrix food drive,” said May.
The Loy Norrix food drive was created to help the students and families within our school family who would no longer be receiving a care basket. The food is provided by Loy Norrix students and families and then given to Loy Norrix students and families that are in need. When Peacejam took over, they were able to make 100 food baskets for delivery.
“It’s one of our more emotional projects that we do in Peacejam. I can tell you that it is one of the most loving, wonderful things that you can do, is to give food to a family that’s in a really rough spot,” said May. “I just delivered four food baskets yesterday and I had one mom that was just bawling her eyes out. They didn’t have a job, their car had just fallen apart, and the food that we brought in that we spent hours getting ready meant so much to her.
“We all know that you need food to live and maybe this gift would help them to have a little bit more money so they can have a present or something for their kids or gas in their tank or heat to make sure they’re warm,” said May. “It just gives a little bit of loving caring back. It is a very time intensive job to do the food drive, but every minute spent means so much more to me now than it did three years ago when we did the Kalamazoo Area Food Drive.”
So many students this year helped collect food. Although it may be Peacejam that initiated it, they are welcoming and open to anybody willing to lend a helping hand. These students spend hours out of their days to go around and help collect the food from all the classes here at Norrix and then help sort the food. These students also give up their fifth hour every Thursday to help with the food drive.
It’s senior Jacob Fenter’s third year in Peacejam, but it’s his first year helping with the food drive.
“Well, the reason I decided to do the food drive is because every day thousands of people go without food, and I decided I would help make a change and do my part to help a family or friend in need. You never know who is struggling until you truly take action and that’s what I decided to do,” said Fenter.
Arika Hawkins helped with the food drive for the first time this year.
“I decided to do the food drive because I wanted to be a part of something that gave to the community in a huge way and helping collect and sort food helped me gain that experience,” said Hawkins.
May has been doing this since 1994 and has really seen the impact it has on students.
“I mean, you really see that kids make a difference and they really do it in a big and wonderful way,” said May.
Loy Norrix couldn’t have done what it did in the food drive without the help of local business. Meijer, Harding’s and D&W gave them money to buy all the flour and sugar. Other local businesses got into the act as well including Noodles & Company, Olive Garden, Rey Rey’s and Mark and Tina’s. All of these businesses gave gift cards for the students that brought in the most food.
“ Dollar to dollar does it equal? No, but that student didn’t bring in all that food because they may get three Noodles & Company gift cards. It’s just Noodles & Company’s way of saying ‘we want to help too’ so if that helps inspire them then so be it,” said May.
“It’s meant to be in the most loving, wonderful, caring way possible. That’s why we do the food drive, to help our own,” said May.