NEW ALBANY — A New Albany food pantry received a pleasant surprise this week after receiving several thousand items from a local school.

Prosser Career Education Center donated about 3,000 canned goods and other non-perishable food items this week to Hope Southern Indiana, a faith-based nonprofit offering a food pantry and other services for those in need. Students and staff at Prosser have collected the items for its annual food drive over the past week, and a group of volunteers from the community gathered Wednesday to help the food pantry sort through the canned goods.

Eddie Bobbitt, a college/career counselor at Prosser and board member with Hope Southern Indiana, said during last week's Career Technical Education (CTE) Week at the school, students and staff within Prosser's various programs had a friendly competition to see who could raise the most items to help restock the nonprofit's food pantry. The goal was originally 1,000 items, but when they quickly exceeded that amount, the goal became 2,020.

Bobbitt was excited to watch them triple their original goal — the school also donated to Hope Southern Indiana last year, but they did not collect nearly as many items, he said.

"Hope Southern Indiana does a great job of meeting the needs of families of crisis in Southern Indiana, and the food pantry is just one of many things Hope SI offers," he said. "I figured their supply might be limited because the holiday is a time of great need, and we wanted to help replenish their food pantry."

The nonprofit's van was filled from top-to-bottom after loading the donated items on Tuesday morning, according to Angie Graf, executive director of Hope Southern Indiana. The food pantry will be able to "bless many people" in the next few months, she said.

"Usually after Christmas our donations slow down," she said. "October, November and December are big donations months, because people want to help us make sure Thanksgiving dinner is plentiful and Christmas dinner is plentiful. But then after the holidays, this is our slowest time. So this is a huge blessing that just came out of nowhere. It's really going to help us for the next coming months — when it gets colder, donations slow down. People are paying their higher energy bills and they're not donating as much. This just means we can keep doing what we do."

The donation included many large cans of foods, which Hope Southern Indiana will donate to local soup kitchens to be used in hot meals. They plan to give the cans to organizations such as Catalyst Rescue Mission, Silver Street United Methodist Church and St. Mark's United Church of Christ, according to Graf.

Tyler Shaheen, assistant director at Hope Southern Indiana, was happy to see so many students and staff involved with Prosser's food drive.

"I think it's cool that students were able to be part of it at Prosser," he said. "Getting them involved early on is always best...Hopefully they'll remain aware of what we're doing and be a part of what we're doing at a higher capacity at some point in the future. I'm excited about that. I love seeing high school students getting involved in the community."

Bobbitt said the school is proud to support Hope Southern Indiana and its efforts in supporting Southern Indiana families, and the food drive motivates students to give back to the community.

“I think any time we can encourage young people to participate in philanthropic endeavors, it teaches them the value and social responsibility of giving back," he said. "It also encourages them to look outside themselves and figure out how to help people who might not be as fortunate through a difficult season."

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