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Taft students raise money, collect food for United Way and HACAP
More than 500 food items, $500 donated to local nonprofits in Cedar Rapids
CEDAR RAPIDS — Taft Middle School students raised over $500 and more than 500 food items to donate to local nonprofits in Cedar Rapids.
The sixth-, seventh, and eighth-graders at Taft, 5200 E Ave. NW, stepped up last month and raised $519 for United Way of East Central Iowa, a social services organization that invests to build stronger, more equitable communities. Another 550 food items or 683 pounds of food were collected for the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving life in Eastern Iowa.
Megan Valenta, senior manager of workplace campaign and donor engagement at United Way of East Central Iowa, said it’s important for community partners to support Cedar Rapids schools and provide ways to develop the potential of students.
It’s also important to “grow givers” by encouraging students to explore, develop and understand their potential as active, civic-minded community members, Valenta said.
“We believe planting the seeds of change now will help the greater Cedar Rapids community for years to come,” Valenta said.
Students lead a “Week of Giving” at their school last month, supported by Amber Blomme, campaign specialist with United Way, Taft Principal Gary Hatfield and other educators. A student leadership cabinet developed a plan and challenged their classmates to donate.
The students put forth an “outstanding effort” and “a lot of learning happened along the way,” Valenta said. Students created an event, planned it and executed it.
“They have the tools and abilities to grow this effort, to create change within their school and positively affect the community,” Valenta said.
Teachers enjoyed seeing students excited to be a part of something so positive, Valenta said. Students were excited to see the food roll in — which was on display in the library — and excited to make a positive impact on their neighbors, especially around the Thanksgiving holiday.
Cedar Rapids schools partners directly with a number of local agencies that receive funds from United Way of East Central Iowa, including Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Waypoint Services, The Arc of East Central Iowa, Foundation 2 Crisis Center and Kids on Course.
These agencies and their programs are servicing Cedar Rapids students, United Way of East Central Iowa funds these agencies, and the community as a whole benefits, Valenta said. “In this case, we really are ‘all in this together,’” she said.
Taft was the first school this year to lead a fundraising campaign like this, Valenta said.
“United Way of East Central Iowa would like to grow this effort, working with Cedar Rapids School Foundation and partner agencies to develop campaigns tailored to each school and their specific community,” Valenta said.
Mel Doudna, United Way of East Central Iowa director of marketing and communication, said the students really felt a “civic responsibility” and put a lot of thought and effort in engaging their peers in the effort to support their community.
“You feel more of an attachment to your community when you start this young,” Doudna said. “Kids are so driven and creative.”
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