Food Drive Brings in 8,000 Donations

By Kelli Gile

Walnut Walnut High Key Club members counted, sorted, and boxed more than 8,000 cans of food stored under the stadium bleachers, and now those cans are filling pantries in local homes and food banks.

Donations of canned vegetables, beans, soup, meats, and other staple foods poured in during the two-week Yes We Can compassion project. “The kids were bringing in cans every morning while I was coming in to work,” said Key Club advisor Justin Panlilio who has headed up the project for the past seven years.

“It put me in a good mood knowing so many needy families will have food during the holidays,” he said.

Donations doubled, up from 4,000 last year, during the 50th annual food drive held in partnership with Kiwanis of Walnut Valley, Panlilio reported.

One reason was a new collaboration with Diamond Bar High’s Key Club that brought in several hundred additional donations. The schools came together to show their compassion for helping the community.

“We thought it was a good idea to get both schools involved,” Panlilio said. Walnut High’s Key Club also hosted a class competition to boost donations, offering a pizza party to the winning class.

It worked, Kellee Lyons’ English class brought in over 550 cans.

In addition, Panlilio led an a capella choir benefit concert on December 10 with free admission for a canned food donation. On Saturday, December 16, about 35 Walnut High and Kiwanis Club volunteers gathered at 7 a.m. to distribute the food. “I think it’s insane that we have 8,000 cans this year!” commented senior Nathan Lin, one of the 30 cabinet members charged with organizing volunteers for the project.

The teens worked in unison while loading 200 packed cardboard boxes as several cars and trucks arrived on campus. In total, about 90 local families will receive two boxes with about 50-pounds of canned food, a large frozen turkey, fresh vegetables, and fruit.

“This project is about helping people in our community. We couldn’t do it without the kids!” said Ray McMullen, a 53-year Kiwanis charter member.

“This is one of the best things I do. It just makes me feel good!” shared Kiwanis member Ralph Mendez.

“I grew up in a big family with six kids and we were always taught to give back.”

The 350-member Walnut High Key Club will next be decorating Rose Parade floats and hosting an InterKey dinner fundraiser to benefit a pediatric trauma program.

Before the distribution day, Key Club volunteers put in many hours organizing and packing donations at the bleacher storage area, known as the dungeon.

“I can say without a doubt that everyone has a heart to help,” Lin said. Sophomore Jasper Wang showed up on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. What was his motivation?

“When they get a knock on the door and get a box delivered, you can just see the happiness on their faces,” he said.