PATTON - The Cambria County Farm Bureau and Cambria Heights Middle School are two of the many organizations across the state making a difference for families staying at a home away from home.
Food Check-out Day is Feb. 15, the approximate date when the average American family has earned enough income to pay for their food needs for the year.
To mark the day, the Cambria County Farm Bureau and students in Cathy Knupp's Family Career and Community Leaders of America group at the middle school are collecting donations of food, cleaning products, paper products, gift cards and money for the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Students from Cambria Heights Middle School (from left) Brad O’Hara, 12, Patrick Huber, 12, Harley Nelen, 12, and Megan Dillon, 14, participate in a food and goods drive as part of Food Check-Out Day for the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh.
The Ronald McDonald House has different living areas available to families of children who are facing surgeries or serious medical issues at nearby hospitals.
"The Ronald McDonald House is a great home away from home for parents and children waiting for a loved one having treatment at the hospital," Cambria County Farm Bureau President Tom Smithmyer said. "It takes a lot of resources to provide this charitable service for our region. It's a perfect way for us to recognize the bounty from our farms."
Smithmyer and his wife, Mary, coordinators of the area drive, have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House before while their 14 children dealt with major surgeries to eradicate genetic tumors, Farm Bureau County Information Director Martin Yahner said.
Time to give
To make a donation of money, gift cards, food or household items for the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh, contact Mary Smithmyer at 674-3715. Donations will be accepted through Feb. 14. For more information on the Ronald McDonald House, visit www.rmhcpgh.org.
There are about 60 rooms available for families at the house, Mary Smithmyer said. Families that use the house pay a nominal fee to have a kitchen, laundry facilities and other amenities.
"The things that we take out can be nonperishable food things and laundry detergent, cleaning things," she said. "It helps them out so they don't have to buy things or eat out all the time."
"The Farm Bureau wants to let the public know how important the Ronald McDonald House is to families," Yahner said. It "does such good work for families to stay near their children when they're in the hospital." This drive also is a way to help the public realize how much most Americans take for granted, Yahner said.
"Every year, more kids don't know where their food comes from," he said. "Food Check-out Day tends to educate them a little bit more about that. People take their food for granted. Look at the massive amounts of choices you have. Food is so available."
Knupp's FCCLA students use the food drive as a community service project, although all 300 students and staff in the school can participate.
"It's more of a wish list donation," Knupp said. "So much of it for the Ronald McDonald House, it's more certain types and kind of things that they need. They want individual type foods, cleaning products, paper products, gift cards. It has evolved a little bit through the years into more than just a food drive."
Students promote the drive on bulletin boards, over announcements and in fliers posted throughout the building. Anyone who brings in an item receives a coupon that can be used for the school's February food sale. The $40 to $50 profit from the sale also goes toward the donation.
The school usually collects about four or five boxes and bags filled with items.
"It's a nice amount," Knupp said, although recent snow days have put a damper on the start of this year's collection. "We work through it."
Everyone has the ability to give back a little, especially when it comes to food, Yahner said.
"We have the most affordable, safest food in the world," he said. "The abundance is just amazing when you think about other nations."
Mirror Staff Writer Wendy Zook is at 946-7520.