La Grande, Ore –(Release from Eastern Oregon University) “Incredibly Proud.” That’s how Co-Director of the 2023 Eastern Oregon University Food Drive and Retention Coordinator, Kate Gekeler described how she felt about the students and employees who raised money for the Union County Food Bank and collected hundreds of cans of non-perishable goods for area food banks.
“We had some very active sports teams this year as well as unprecedented support from EOU employees,” Gekeler said. “The wrestling team and football team really went out of their way to do a blend of food and money donations that will impact our community in an incredible way! In addition to this, EOU employees applied for grant funds through the Soroptimists of La Grande and received $5,000 to purchase non-food items such as toiletries, paper products, and more!
Local business owners were also very generous such as Northwest Furniture and Mattress, Thai Fresh Gardens, Becky’s Burger Wagon, Carter Custom Cleaning, The Archives, and John Howard and Associates.” This year, in total from all donors, EOU raised a total of over $12,400!”
Although a significant amount of food and money will stay in Union County, Gekeler said the food and money that was collected will help 22 food banks in Union, Baker, Grant, and Wallowa Counties.
The 2022 Food Drive was a record-breaking year and Gekeler said their goal was to top that in terms of raising money and collecting canned goods.
“We smashed last year’s record!,” Gekeler said. “I’m incredibly proud, our students have spent hours at local grocery stores, out in the community speaking to business owners, and they have been pushing their comfort zones in order to give back to the community!”
On Tuesday morning, Feb. 28, students and staff gathered at Quinn Coliseum to load the canned goods into vans where it will be taken to be counted.
EOU student and woman wrestler Morgan Shines was on hand to help sort and load canned goods with a number of other students.
“I know my team has been working really hard to collect all these cans and collect money for the food drive,” Shines said. “I need to pull my weight as well, this is for my community, this is for our fans, our people. These people support us and I need to show my support back.”
Gekeler credits the students willing to help that made the drive successful. EOU student Moses McAnich hoped he could impact someone’s life significantly.
“The world is not in short supply of kindness,” McAnich said. “The smallest kindnesses are the ones that don’t always get noticed but are often the most memorable.
EOU student Anjelynn Baron called the food drive “intrinsically rewarding.”
“I am contributing to something bigger than myself,” Baron said.
This food drive is in partnership with Community Connections of Northeast Oregon. Co-Directors, Professor Bill Grigsby, Professor Matt Gougherty, Retention Coordinator, Kate Gekeler, and Student Coordinator, Alayne Bennett, all helped to organize the effort.