Hauser Junior High collects for food drive

RIVERSIDE – They might not have red velvet coats and hats with fluffy white trim, but students at Hauser Junior High School in Riverside are acting a lot like Santa Claus this season – and for many seasons before.

This weekend, volunteers came together at the school to collect cans and cash for their 43rd annual Holiday Food Drive. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Salvation Army in Chicago’s Englewood community and the Riverside Food Pantry, at 27 Riverside Road, in Riverside.

According to organizers, Hauser Junior High School volunteers have been the top can collectors for the Salvation Army in Illinois for more than 40 years. Last year’s food drive collected about 45,000 cans. In 2010, the group reported their all-time high of 80,000 cans collected.

On Thursday, students who collected more than 200 cans will set up a public display of the donations after school from 3:30 to 6 p.m. The cans will be displayed to the public from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and Santa will pose for pictures from 7 to 9 p.m.

On Friday, eighth grade students will help load the Salvation Army trucks in the afternoon.

“It’s been a really great experience,” said Romy Vargas Gil, chair of the Holiday Food Drive this year.

Vargas Gil has a daughter at the school this year and said she felt is was important for them to participate.

“It’s amazing to see these kids work,” Vargas Gil said. “It’s been great to be a part of.”

Cash donations also are accepted at the school’s PTO website at www.hauserpto.com.