A huge force of soldiers and students stood alongside other volunteers Friday, hauling in the tangible results of a generous community during the annual Food for Families drive leading into the week of Thanksgiving.

At the Special Events Center, the primary collection point in Killeen, Food Care Center Executive Director Raymond Cockrell expected to reach this year’s goal of 250,000 pounds of food.

“It’s wonderful to see everyone working together side by side shoulder to shoulder for a good cause,” Cockrell said. The annual drive provides roughly two months’ worth of food donations for the center, which sees about 3,000 families a month.

“We couldn’t survive without this drive,” said Dennis Duffey, operations manager for the Food Care Center. “It’s great to see all the volunteers. The kids seem interested. They like to work. It puts faith back in humanity to see that they care and they volunteer.”

One after the other Friday morning, students arrived from Rancier Middle School, Union Grove Middle School and Eastern Hills Middle School to join the cadre of command finance specialists from Fort Hood and other volunteers.

Eastern Hills teacher Lisa Burden has brought her Builders Club students for many years. She said the annual service, organizing donated goods into specific boxes is a favorite. “We’ll do 10 projects a year and at the end of the year, this is their favorite,” she said. “They understand they are helping people.”

“I love at the end finding out how much we have gathered together,” said eighth-grader Destinie Robinson, Eastern Hills Builders Club president. “We can see that ‘wow, our group helped,’” she said. The school brought 21 students to the effort.

Volunteers weighed each load, including large hauls that Fort Hood’s 13th Sustainment Command soldier drivers transported from four H-E-B stores and six Wal-Mart locations. The Union Grove group brought 1,362 pounds of food.

A group of 44 Union Grove Teen Leadership and Student Council students volunteered in the drive. “It’s important because there are people less fortunate than we are,” said Union Grove seventh-grader Carollicia Roberts. “It’s cool that the community comes together to help a good cause.”

Rancier Middle School also brought volunteers, 26 members of the Gear-Up Youth Congress.

“Today is about giving food to those in need,” said Rancier seventh-grader AyalahBohana. “It makes me feel awesome that I can make a change.”

“We don’t want to see any families suffering,” said Rancier seventh-grader YankielCardalda Castillo. “We want to give to others.”

“I like volunteering to help those in need,” said Eastern Hills eighth-grader Lisa Lorenz, student council president. “You never know what people are going through.”

“I want kids to understand that if they want to live in a free society, they need to take responsibility,” said Burden, the Eastern Hills Builders Club sponsor.

Last year, the Food Care Center at 210 N. 16th Street in Killeen gave away 2.4 million pounds of food to 84,000 clients, including many children. The center welcomes 300 new families a month, Cockrell said. Demand rises during the holidays and volunteers will give away 1,500 food baskets Monday and Tuesday leading into Thanksgiving.

The drive that supports the downtown Killeen center is part of a larger Central Texas Food for Families drive that was expected to bring in 2 million pounds of food in one day to benefit clients in nine counties.

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