Good Sam benefits from successful ‘Battle’

Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County volunteer JoAnna Stevens sorts cans donated for the Battle of the Bridge food drive and fundraiser.

Support for this year’s Battle of the Bridge food drive and fundraiser was game-changing for Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County.

Leading up to the big rivalry game Thursday, students from Lenoir City and Loudon high schools helped raise 169,404.65 pounds of food.

“I was looking at the numbers and this year was the highest year since, well, ever,” Cindy Black, Good Sam executive director, said. “I’ve got dates from 2001 until now, and at 169,404 pounds, that is the highest total we’ve ever had.”

Miscommunication among Good Sam representatives last year led to an incorrect figure of 185,878.69 pounds, Evelyn Edwards, Good Sam pantry manager, said.

Black noted the correct total for 2018 should have been 156,664 pounds.

“It’s exciting for us, definitely,” Black said about this year’s results. “Even some of our volunteers today were shocked at how much this raised for us and how this is our largest food fundraiser. ... Lenoir City in actual cash just almost $15,000 and Loudon in actual cash was right at $17,000. They said, ‘You mean $1,700,’ and I said, ‘No, $17,000’.”

Lenoir City and Loudon collected $14,762.88 and $17,399.05, respectively, according to Black.

She could not pinpoint why the drive does so well each year, but noted students and teachers “just get excited about it.”

“It’s always a student-led and teacher-led thing, so we have no control over how excited they get about it,” Black said. “I know that there were a couple of extra — I know that Lenoir City did a rummage sale last Saturday and so I saw a couple of extra things like that.”

The drive each year makes a big difference for Good Sam.

In July, Good Sam gave away about 30,000 pounds of food to families, Edwards said.

“We spend over $100,000 a year on groceries anyway and this is just a big shot in the arm because you think about how much food we get and how much money we get in terms of that,” Black said. “That just is a big boost for our budget in terms of being able to continue to improve our food quality and quantities that we can give to our clients. As you know, last year we started helping our 65 and over clients a little bit more often, they can come four weeks instead of every three months, and so that gave us the freedom to look at who are clients are and what our clients’ needs are and where we can help out one more step.”

Volunteers throughout the week will sort the canned goods.

“Now, our postal was good, but nothing compares to this,” Edwards said. “These kids, as I said, they worked really, really hard. ... For us it’s great because I don’t have to purchase. Canned goods are going up, especially in Second Harvest. It’s not going up price-wise, the price-wise is staying, but they’re cutting down. Instead of 24 cans they’re giving us, they’re giving us 12 cans. So they have it probably at almost the same price, but it’s so if you get 24 cans then you’re doubling it. For example, if you had $8.89 for spaghetti sauce you get 12. ... What we have here will help, like mixed vegetables here is very expensive. It just cuts down on the cost for me.”

Lenoir City won the “Battle of the Chicken Nugget” at Chick-fil-A, bringing in $363 compared to Loudon’s $344, Black said. The annual fundraiser took 10 percent of purchases to go toward each school on a given day.

“To be honest with you, anytime Loudon High School is competing with Lenoir City High School in any event there is going to be a huge turnout, especially on the Loudon side of the bridge,” Scott MacKintosh, Loudon High School principal, said in an email correspondence. “People here are very passionate about that rivalry and even if it’s a game of checkers or Monopoly it’s going to be highly contested. Seriously though, Loudon County folks always turn out when it’s a cause bigger than themselves. Loudon County is truly the epitome of the volunteer spirit. Loudon High School is certainly proud to be a part of such a great effort.”

MacKintosh considered students, teachers and the community coming together special to help a good cause.

“It gives them the awareness that not everybody can put food on their tables,” Edwards said. “Their neighbor, they’re not going to know that maybe their neighbor is struggling or the kids in the school are not eating. So it just gives them the awareness of what is going on in their society in the Loudon and Lenoir City.”