Candy in your sack is the goal for most trick-or-treaters, but on this Halloween, as in many years past, a group of Maryville High School students is hoping for canned vegetables and pasta instead.
That’s because they are participating in the annual food collection known as Trick or Cans. It was the youth group at New Providence Presbyterian Church that started the campaign to feed the hungry 20 years ago. New Providence teamed up with MHS and it’s been a successful endeavor ever since.
This year’s chairs are Jordis Blackburn and Ayak Cinkoc, both seniors. Their assistant leaders are Audrey Blackburn, Jordis’s younger sister, and Bryce Luttrell.
The plan is for between 100-120 students to take to Maryville neighborhoods on Halloween to collect nonperishable food that will be donated to the Community Food Connection of Blount County. Items needed include things like peanut butter, soups, pasta and pasta sauces, canned meat like tuna, boxed cereal, rice and beans. The Trick or Cans student volunteers will come by and pick up the donations and get them where they need to be.
Jordis said the following clubs have signed on to participate — MHS National Honor Society, MHS swim team, MHS Key Club, three Girl Scout troops, New Providence youth group and the Young Democrats.
They will head out to the neighborhoods of Briarcliff, Cross Creek, Knightbridge, Royal Oaks, Wimbledon and part of Northfield, Jordis said. Each student who is part of this collection effort will wear Trick or Cans T-shirts provided by Pokeys and Sports and other sponsors.
Audrey said she knew she wanted to come onboard and help lead this important effort.
“I got to watch (Jordis) last year,” she said. “I thought it would be a really good experience. She got to learn so much, including how to talk to businesses and gain sponsors. Plus it gets the whole school active.”
Luttrell said they started working on the project in August.
It hasn’t always been easy making contact with area businesses for sponsorship, he said. Working with New Providence has been a great experience, he added.
And the best part of the whole ordeal?
That is all of the work leading up to Oct. 31, Luttrell said. It is gratifying at the end to see the work was worth it, he explained.
The same neighborhoods are visited each year, Audrey said, so many homeowners will be ready with bags filled. The Trick or Cans volunteers also will knock on those neighborhood doors in case homeowners forget to place the donations outside on the porch.
The goal, these teen leaders said, is to collect as much food as they can. Jordis volunteers at the CFC and said she sees firsthand what this project is able to do. CFC serves 6,000 people each month, many of them children.
If there are those who want to contribute to Trick or Cans, but their neighborhoods aren’t on the list to be visited, non-perishable food can be taken that night to CFC from 4:30-8 p.m. The food pantry is at 311 Whitecrest Drive, Maryville.
Audrey and Luttrell will chair the 2019 Trick or Cans and already are thinking ahead.
Audrey said they might encourage Alcoa and the two high schools in Blount County to come onboard for a friendly competition.
“It’s always been just Maryville,” Audrey said. “I would love to get the other schools involved.”