Residents ready to pack the pantry
There is going to be tons of food at Friday’s game of the century — literally.
For the sixth year in a row, charities in Waynesville and Canton will be accepting food donations at the gates of Pisgah Stadium prior to Friday’s big rivalry football game between Pisgah and Tuscola.
Students from both schools have been collecting donations all week, but the effort will be seriously stepped up Friday at 4 p.m. when a Ford 150 parks at each of the stadium’s two gates ready to pile in the food.
Last year, The Mountaineers trounced the Black Bears in the competition by collecting 2,260 pounds to Pisgah’s 1,680. Two years ago, when the game was last in Canton, Tuscola won by less than 100 pounds.
This year, Pisgah's donations are going to Canton’s Community Kitchen and Tuscola’s will go to The Open Door in Waynesville. Director of Community Kitchen Kim Czaja said that with the hype around this game, she expects donations be a huge year for the food drive.
“With this game being as big as it is, this has the potential to be the biggest one yet,” she said.
A big part of the rivalry and the food drive are Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown and Canton Mayor Mike Ray. Brown, who was in office six years ago for the drive’s first iteration, said that the it has always been one of the most positive aspects of the night.
“It puts a good spin on the rivalry,” he said. “I think the real winner is going to be The Open Door and Community Kitchen.”
He added that Pack the Pantry has been instrumental in raising community awareness.
“We’re not shoving it in the background and pretending it doesn’t exist,” he said. “We’re trying to get food, get help, to the people that need it. It goes across political lines.”
Both The Open Door and Community Kitchen serve their communities in a number of ways, from giving out food boxes to serving meals to holding classes and church services. Director of The Open Door Perry Hines, who will be participating in his first ever Pack the Pantry, said that he is thrilled to be working with Community Kitchen to serve the entire county.
“There is a rivalry between Pisgah and Tuscola, but there is no rivalry between Community Kitchen and The Open Door,” he said. “We’re in this doing the same thing together.”
The intense rivalry brings a competitive spirit to both Waynesville and Canton, but with Pack the Pantry, there is also a strong sense of purpose beyond the playing field and the stands. Both mayors agreed that they like the human element of the night just as much as the competition. Ray said that he is especially happy with the positive spin Pack the Pantry brings to the whole night.
“The community is coming together to help people, not just to watch football,” he said.