Heartland Lutheran High School is looking to give back to the Grand Island community during the COVID-19 pandemic by hosting a food drive.
The drive began on April 27 and will continue through noon Friday. Senior Devin Rathman said the senior class wanted to do something to give back to the community and talked with Heartland Lutheran Principal Tim Leech and his wife, Beth Leech, a teacher at the school, about ideas of what they could do to help.
After talking with the Leeches, Rathman said, the senior class decided that the best thing to do at this time would be to host a food drive.
“Our senior class — even if we do not always show it — care for others a lot,” he said. “With everyone under panic and fear right now, I think the best way to show God’s love is by helping out and showing that there is more to life than just living in fear.”
On Monday morning, Heartland Lutheran had 10 tables set up in the school’s lobby area with canned foods, pastas and other food items. The seniors said they never imagined they would receive as many donations as they did.
Senior Carli Maier said Heartland Lutheran has hosted food drives in the past with its house competitions in which all students are divided into houses to compete for points throughout the school year.
But the school has never hosted one as big as the one currently underway.
“This is definitely the biggest food drive we’ve had and the one that has reached out to the community the most,” senior Brianna Van Bibber said. “We are definitely happy to have that help because every little bit helps. There is definitely a huge need for food right now.”
Rathman said the food drive originally involved just the senior class, their families and Heartland Lutheran families trying to see what they could do to support the community. However, the drive has expanded to the greater Grand Island community, with Grand Island Central Catholic and JBS donating $500 and $10,000, respectively, to the cause.
“I think it is really cool that our brothers and sisters in Christ could come together and support this,” said Van Bibber on the GICC donation. “We might be different schools, but we are all in this together. It is definitely a community effort.”
Principal Leech said, after JBS donated $10,000, Heartland Lutheran expanded its efforts to assist Heartland United way’s backpack program.
It was not the original intent for the food drive to benefit this program, he said, but “God works in mysterious ways,” allowing the school to do so.
“I got in contact with Karen Rathke at the United Way and, in working with the superintendents in town, we know that the backpack program was running out of food and funding on May 15,” Leech said.
“The Salvation Army could no longer handle the need over the summer without that extra funding. So that $10,000 — and probably a lot of our other cash donations — will go directly toward continuing that program throughout the summer for as long as possible.”
Maier said it is “really heartwarming” to see the community come together.
Leech said he is not impressed by the collected food itself, but by the efforts of the senior class in organizing the initiative.
“It is the fact that they can look beyond themselves and what has been taken away from them and still have a servant’s heart,” he said. “Even with all that has been taken away from them, it is still their desire to serve Christ by serving the people around them.”
Heartland Lutheran will be open for food donation dropoffs from 9 a.m. to noon daily through Friday. The school asks those dropping off donations to wear masks. Dropoff appointments outside of these hours can be made by emailing Leech at email@example.com.
While it appreciates all donations to help those in need, Heartland Lutheran said it recommends shopping at Hy-Vee, which is partnering with the school on the food drive. The store is providing special pricing to shoppers who donate.
The seniors said they expect the food items to be donated to local food banks this weekend.