By: Laura-Jane Hatcher (WRGA News)
Friday’s Can-A-Thon amassed over 60,000 canned goods for the local hungry and attracted the attention of Salvation Army Christmas Chair and First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Deal.
The impressive number of cans gathered, which sits at approximately 63,833, beat last year’s collection by over 10,000. Close to 90% of the goods were donated by the Rome city and Floyd county schools, and this figure was undoubtedly reproduced in can collections across the state. Schools have traditionally been the leading donators in the food drive, and this year’s high volume of school contribution could be partially attributed to the efforts of Gov. Nathan Deal’s wife, Sandra.
Mrs. Deal visited Rome’s collection site at State Mutual Stadium Friday. For the past two years, she has been visiting schools across Georgia, reading to children. When she learned of the Salvation Army’s canned good fundraiser, she combined her mission of literacy with the message of Can-A-Thon.
“In some of the schools, when I went, I read to them. Then, I would talk to them about the need for giving, and how they needed to know about the ways they can give canned goods during the holidays,” she said. “I also let them know that the Salvation Army is available to help families that might have hungry children so they might share that news with people in their neighborhoods who might be in need.”
Mrs. Deal was concerned with children who relied on school issued meals during the holiday period. An estimated 17,000 food baskets provided by the Salvation Army will help these ailing children and their families, but Ms. Deal believes the true path out of poverty for these kids is paved by education.
“I am a teacher by trade. I’ve always loved school and I’ve always loved children. I think it is the way to get children out of poverty, and to help make our state stronger, because we need good, well-trained workers,” she said. “It doesn’t do us any good to bring in jobs and not have people trained to fill them. We don’t want to have to bring people from other places to fill the jobs we’re trying to get for our Georgia citizens.”
Over 200,000 canned goods were collected from all Georgia Can-A-thon sites. Rome topped the list for the most cans gathered, which is good news for the local chapter. Since September, the Salvation Army’s pantry has been bare. The fundraiser provides the charity organization with 85% of the food they use in a year, and all 63, 833 cans will stay in Rome to feed Rome.