Braving the cold to help the hungry, volunteers young and old combined to collect a mountain of food.

As the 24th annual Food for Families drive concluded Friday at the Special Events Center in Killeen, middle school students and soldier volunteers labored to sort the donations.

Killeen Food Care Center co-directors Gerald and Ann Farris said all five pantries the drive serves have seen an increase in demand.

“It’s definitely a big deal for us to get food in these large quantities,” Gerald Farris said. “It seems like whenever we need a little extra, more donations come in.”

Organizers hoped to collect 125,000 pounds of food.

Ann Farris agreed that difficult times seem to bring out the best in good-hearted people.

She said she notices that it is often the people of lower wealth who dig deeper to give to those in need.

The Eastern Hills Middle School Builders Club moved the nonperishable food items to a staging area and sorted them by product for delivery to five area pantries in Killeen and Harker Heights.

“The Builders Club is handpicked students who give back to the community,” said eighth-grader Alex Halvorsen. “We try to give back and help out and show we can make a difference.”

Clifton Park Elementary School in Killeen wrapped up its drive with 1,480 food items donated.

Third-grade bilingual teacher Raquel Madera’s students donated about 160 canned goods, committing their teacher to wear a turkey hat for the day as the biggest contributing class in the school.

“I’m excited because they are excited,” Madera said. “It’s cool how involved they get.”

She said one student, Carlos Carreno, brought in so many cans that she checked with his mother to make sure he had permission to give the food.

He did.

In a food drive that wrapped up earlier in the week, Nolanville Elementary School collected 1,850 food items for the Food for Families drive.

Between truckloads at the special events center, eighth-grader Paige Stephens said it was fun to work when it helps others.

“I like it,” she said. “It’s important because some people, especially during Thanksgiving, can’t eat. I like helping out. Even in the cold I like doing it.”

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