You can’t play basketball right now in the gym at Western High School in Davie. The floor is covered with cans of food, boxes of food bags of food. Students, parents, and volunteers, including Davie Police officers and Broward Sheriff’s firefighters are scurrying here and there, getting everything ready for distribution.
The gym is the staging area for the annual Harvest Drive, a massive effort to feed the needy at Thanksgiving.
“It goes to show you that especially during this holiday season, there’s people out there looking out for other people, making sure they’re getting what they need,” said Ricky Vegabossa, the Student Government Association president.
Renee Herman started Harvest Drive in 1992, feeding 10 families at one school. Now it’s sprouted to 180 schools and this year, it’ll help 2,200 families and an estimated 10,000 people. Each family gets about a week’s worth of groceries, everything needed to make a thanksgiving meal, and a shopping trip through the boutique.
The school’s auditorium is set up like a department store. There are hundreds of donated toys, clothing in adult and children’s sizes, and row upon row of shoes.
“I feel really good. I’m very proud. It’s a tireless effort, we work, start right back up immediately,” said Herman, explaining that as soon as everything is distributed form this year’s harvest drive, work on next year’s effort begins.
Principal Jimmy Arrojo is immensely proud that so many of his students get involved in the annual project.
“Giving is second nature to these kids,” said Principal Arrojo. “And the students learn a really important message, which is help others, help others in need, giving is important.”
One student said he was shocked to find out last year that one of his friends was a beneficiary of Harvest Drive.
“It made me think how there’s so much we don’t know about people we’re close to and we don’t know the struggles they go through, I learned not to take things for granted,” said Nick Padron, one of the volunteers.
“We have people that go to our school that need food and this is our opportunity to help out,” said Lizzie Aiu, another student.
Western High is known for its debate and STEM programs, but the student government president said working on Harvest Drive is the most satisfying thing any student can do.
“Yes, it’s very inspiring, I feel like society might think that kids aren’t really getting involved, aren’t really doing much for the community, but that’s not true, as you can see,” said Vegabossa.
The Harvest Drive is more than just an effort to feed the needy at Thanksgiving. It also sparks a spirit of community service among a group of kids that organizers hope will last a lifetime.