Lewis and Clark High School juniors Tatum Getchell and Ruby O’Neil have no problem rallying their school’s community. After all, as cheerleaders, it’s more or less their job on campus.
But ever since the coronavirus closed schools across the world, they’ve rallied around their community in a different way.
Working with the school’s booster club through their DECA class, where students prepare for careers in business, Getchell and O’Neil have coordinated the school’s process of distributing food and personal items to LC students and families in need.
“It was a really good experience to realize this isn’t just a bag of food, it’s a family, and it’s a person,” said O’Neil, “It was a really awesome reminder as to why we do what we do and why we love it.”
The pair have managed to make an impact through their passion in a relatively short time, only taking the reins of the LC Bite2Go program in December, which oversees the anonymous distribution of food and personal materials to students across campus.
“They have been in charge of it this school year and are continuing to help as much as they can,” says Chantal Czarapata, who has been teaching DECA at the high school for 25 years. “They have been a force to keep it going and get the routes taken care of so we know where to go to deliver to the homes.”
And after the school’s booster club kicked off a weekly food drive at Hart Field on April 15, the two students have had an opportunity to distribute even more supplies to the school community.
These food drives have been coordinated with help from Czarapata and LC Athletic Director Dave Hughes, whose previous 11 years as the school’s head football coach mean the food drive has marked a surreal return to the place where he’s coordinated more plays than donations.
“In these new times, our jobs are being reassigned on what we do and how we try to help the community and help people,” said Hughes. “We knew we had a need to continue to try to help feed our students at Lewis and Clark High School.”
The community responded and turned out, donating 1,200 pounds of food and personal items and $400 in cash for the first food drive alone.
Between the food drive and the sustained support for the Bite2Go initiative from Spokane accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen, the DECA program has managed to direct food and other items for an increasing number of students.
“When school stopped, we had 60 students (in Bite2Go),” Czarapata said. “Since this whole pandemic has happened, we’ve probably just within the last week increased it by another 10. And it seems like every day we’re getting more phone calls to the school to add their child to the list.”
As those needs have risen, Getchell and O’Neil have stepped up in a big way to coordinate and deliver supplies, with help from teachers and family.
“All of the drivers were teachers and admin from Lewis and Clark, so it was nice to see a familiar face while packing up their cars,” said O’Neil. “We had 10 drivers each, and Tatum and I created a spreadsheet as well as routes using Google Maps so that each driver had someone telling them where to go.”
Meanwhile, with help from their moms driving them around, both Getchell and O’Neil got to deliver packages while obeying social distancing guidelines.
“Sometimes, the food that they’re bringing home isn’t just for them. It’s for their younger siblings as well,” said Getchell, “Giving them extra in a time where everyone’s home is really important. … It was a lot more personal this time than our usual system, because we never see where these students come from.”
Czarapata said it’s this kind of perspective and insight that can only come from being engaged with the community.
“It has been so heartwarming because myself and students, sometimes we get wrapped up in our own life and we don’t see the bigger picture,” Czarapata said. “By doing this program, my kids have really had their eyes opened beyond themselves to what the needs are of not only our Spokane community, but more importantly, our school community. They’re willing to make a difference every single week delivering to these students.”
And if you ask O’Neil, it’s getting to support something that’s bigger than herself that’s made it all worth it.
“If the community wants to help out, just donate to a local food bank or food drive and you’ll really see the difference,” she said. “It’s not just LC, it’s the whole city coming together, which I appreciate and love.”
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