Football rivals come together for needy
When thousands of Pisgah and Tuscola High School fans flood Pisgah Memorial Stadium tonight for the annual County Clash football game, they will not only be fueling a fierce rivalry. They will also have a chance to feed hungry people in Haywood County.
As a part of the Town of Waynesville’s Pack the Pantry Food Drive, fans of either school will again compete to see which side of the county can bring the most canned goods to stock nearly bare food pantries in the county.
Boxes marked with a “P” or a “T” will be stationed outside both entrances to the stadium for fans to drop off nonperishable food items.
Food collected by Pisgah will benefit the Community Kitchen in Canton and Tuscola cans will go to Haywood Christian Ministry.
On Monday, the boxes of food will be weighed and the school that collects the heaviest total food will be declared the winner, complete with a trophy and bragging rights.
Last year, the food drive brought in 7,047 pounds of food from the biggest game of the year. And it was Tuscola that swept a win for both the football game and the food drive, bringing in 4,301 pounds of food.
Pisgah fans contributed 2,746 pounds.
The County Clash game is one of the biggest rivalries in the nation and is part of the Great American Rivalry Series.
Pioneer Feed and Seed, a longstanding business serving both Canton and Waynesville, will provide t-shirts, Carhartt toboggans and Carhartt BBQ aprons for each cheerleading team to throw into the crowd.
Waynesville Mayor and alumni Tuscola football player Gavin Brown says this year, he expects Tuscola to bring even more spirit to both the game and the food drive.
“It’s bear season for the Mountaineers,” Brown said mischievously.
Each sporting their respective letter jackets from high school, Brown and Canton Mayor Mike Ray said the intense 100-year-old rivalry between the schools is "all in good fun."
"Mike and I both agree that while we are rivals in football, it's amazing how the community can come together when it's needed," Brown said.
And with an increase in requests for food, Lisa James, director of Haywood Christian Ministry, said help is certainly needed.
"Our pantry is at the lowest it's been in probably eight months," she said, adding that this is the first time she's ever seen the shelves without corn or dried beans.
Other items needed in particular include peanut butter and canned fruit.
"Those are all items we try to put in every food box because we consider them to be staples," James said.
Last month, the organization received 339 food orders, which is up from the usual 250 requests they receive this time of year.
Food collected from the Pack the Pantry Food Drive always makes a significant impact on how many people are fed.
With the help of the football competition last year, James said Haywood Christian Ministry was able to distribute 60 tons of food.
"If we didn’t have this right now we'd be down to giving one small box of food per family so this food drive is tremendous and we cannot be grateful enough to the town of Waynesville for their hard work," she said.
More than anything, both town mayors hope the friendly competition will help instill a sense of service in the students at each school.
"This lets our students know how to be involved and service oriented at an early age. Wins and losses come and go but we're providing sustenance to our community," Ray said.
Food must be nonperishable, and no glass containers are allowed. Monetary donations will be accepted in lieu of cans and checks can be made payable to Haywood Christian Ministry or The Community Kitchen. Cash donations will be split in half between the nonprofits.
Pack the Pantry Food Drive activities will continue throughout October and into mid-November as the students at Jonathan Valley, Junaluska, and Hazelwood Elementary all hold classroom food drives, and local businesses place public collection boxes for donations.
The drive will end on Friday, Nov. 16, with an all-day community collection event from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
This year collection points will be at the Ingles on Russ Avenue and Wal-Mart in west Waynesville. Accepted items for all Pack the Pantry events must be nonperishable: flour, sugar, corn meal, soups, rice, beans, coffee, tea, cereal, canned vegetables, canned fruits, peanut butter, cooking oil, and canned meat.