The “Cleveland Helping Cleveland” drive, recently conducted by the bank, was one of the best ever. It was the 14th straight year that Southern Heritage Bank has conducted the event.
Thousands of nonperishable food items were donated this year, which began on Nov. 5 and concluded with a special drop-off event at the bank’s main office on Nov. 9. These food donations will go to United Way program partners to help them stock their pantries, as well as distribute food to those they in need with whom they have personal contact.
“From the looks of the food we collected, I believe this is one of our most successful food drives ever,” said Stewart. In fact, Stewart was the lone person moving the food within the truck for the first part of that last day on the truck, so he can speak from experience about the amount donated.
This food came from many within the community, including several industries and several schools in both the county and city systems. The “Cleveland Helping Cleveland” drive has always involved industries that collect food within their plants, or in the case of Cleveland Utilities, those that collect monetary donations and then purchase food with those funds.
“Some of these companies have been with us since our first food drive, and we appreciate them so much,” Stewart said. “Each year, we also seem to attract more new companies to participate, and we appreciate their support as well.”
Among the companies that participated this year were: Cleveland Utilities, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, Peyton’s Southeastern, Eaton Electrical, the Retreat at Spring Creek Apartments, Bender Realty, the Cleveland Family YMCA, and Century 21 Realtors.
Stewart said he is always amazed at the local schools that participate, and thinks this shows that we have youth in our community who are being taught that giving to those in need is something that we all should do.
“We had nine schools participate in our food drive, and from what I hear from those at the schools, the children really enjoyed being a part of the drive,” Stewart said.
“Some had their Beta Clubs head up their individual drives, while others had other clubs involved. Classes had friendly competitions between each other, and I have seen many photos of turkeys on walls filled with feathers that designated a donated food item.
“I feel confident that these students will continue to be aware of how they can help in our community because of event like this, and will carry that into their adult lives,” he added.
Schools that participated this year included Yates Primary School, Charleston Elementary School, Park View Elementary School, Mayfield Elementary School, Michigan Avenue Elementary School, Waterville Community Elementary School, Oak Grove Elementary School, Cleveland High School, and Walker Valley High School.
United Way program partners that will receive the food assistance include the Harbor Safe House, Signal Center, Cleveland Emergency Shelter, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland, and the Neighbors in Need program.
Stewart said that the event was started in 1999, the year the bank originated, “because we knew it was a time that others might be most in need, due to the holidays. We have continued to collect food just prior to Thanksgiving, but what we have collected now not only helps during the holiday, but helps these programs for much of the first part of the year.”
Special assistance during the event was again provided by the Cleveland Fire Department, as firefighters helped load the trailer at Southern Heritage Bank on the final day, and unload the trailer at the United Way offices where the food is being distributed to the programs.
Wholesale Supply Group participated in the event this year, providing the trailer to hold the food at the Southern Heritage Bank main office. Tommy Davenport and Troy Weathers of Wholesale Supply Group were also recruited to unload the trailer at United Way as they delivered the food this past week.
Peyton’s Southeastern delivers its donation straight to the United Way offices, where both Lisa George and Cherie Burke were also involved in unloading the Peyton’s trailer. Special kudos should be given to these two ladies as they unloaded the truck, with a little aid from United Way staff, in the rain.
Some of the highlights of the drive:
o Cleveland Utilities raised $950 to purchase food for the event.
o Park View Elementary School collected 900 cans of food. The Beta Club at Park View headed the project there.
o Mayfield Elementary School collected 1,510 food items for the drive.
o Oak Grove Elementary School collected 2,898 food items and $363 in cash. The school held a special competition between classes, which was won by Ms. Nicholson’s 5th grade class and, thus, won biscuits for the class from Calfee’s on Highway 64. They also won the opportunity to enjoy their biscuits at a special breakfast with Oak Grove principal Buck Watson.
o The National Honor Society at Walker Valley High School again conducted the food drive there, raising $2,550 in cash and 350 food items. Over $1,000 was raised on the final day of the food drive. The WVHS football team also conducted its own project to help the food drive.
oAllison Boling’s first-grade class won the school competition at Charleston Elementary School, bringing in 225 food items. The drive at Charleston Elementary was headed by the school safety patrol as a school wide service project.
In all, more than $3,100 in cash was collected during the food drive. These funds will go toward providing food and emergency services to those in need through the United Way’s program partners.
Matt Ryerson, United Way of Bradley County president and chief executive officer, said he was so overwhelmed by the support of the community for the food drive.
“I was amazed, but not surprised, because I know that we live in such a caring community that people are going to come through and help when they know there is a need,” he said.
Ryerson thanked Stewart and Southern Heritage Bank, and Denise DeArmond at the bank who coordinates the event each year, for their dedication to supporting United Way and helping the community.
“These donations will help many in need in our community, so we want to thank Southern Heritage Bank, and also want to thank those who provided food to help our program partners,” Ryerson said. “We are all so proud of each and every one of you.”