Started by former Hauser teacher “Butch” Berwanger, it has grown and brought in a total of 1,430,430 food items over the years.

Now in its 40th year, the annual Hauser Junior High Canned Food Drive begins collecting on Thursday, Dec. 2 and continues through Tuesday, Dec. 14. Each year the students strive to meet or beat the previous year’s total. With last year’s total being 64,000 items, they have their work cut out for them. An added incentive is a friendly rivalry between the 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-grade classes to see which class can finish with the biggest collection.

Donations go to the Salvation Army in the Englewood community with an additional donation made last year to the Riverside Township Food Pantry.

The energetic and enthusiastic Berwanger set about making the drive fun, as well as teaching the importance of giving, so he began having students make a display with the canned goods. Set up in the school auditorium, the display has an electric train running through it, moveable objects, designs, mazes and whatever else student imagination comes up with.

All are invited to view the display on Wednesday, Dec. 15 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. It’s so great that even Santa comes. We’re told he’ll arrive at 7 p.m. to have his picture taken with good little boys and girls.

Meanwhile, local businesses have become involved at Chew Chew Cafe with “Fill the Wagon” on Saturday, Dec. 4 from noon-2 p.m. You can receive a $5 gift card for every 25 cans donated, and Mollie’s Irish Pub will be giving a percentage on Dec. 7 and 14. Also Pete Wengerski of PoWeR will be giving $25 to the food drive and a discount from Dec. 2-14 on services if you mention Hauser.

The Salvation Army captain will come on Dec. 16 to speak to the students to let them know the importance of the food drive to so many people. The display will also be available for viewing that morning from 7 to 11 before it is dismantled and packed up.

This is a “feel good” project that we can all be part of while teaching our youngsters the meaning of the season. Be ready with your canned goods or monetary donations when students come to your door or when you see them at different sites around town. Checks may be made out to Riverside Public Schools. Let’s help Hauser beat their record from last year!

To obtain more information on the Hauser Food Drive, call 447-3896.