Denise Erichsen's kindergartners were proud to be chosen to deliver 775 pounds of food to the Spring Valley Area Food Shelf last Monday morning and meet food shelf volunteers Carol Gross and Rita Hartert. Hartert shows a few of the students some of the supplies while explaining how important the food shelf's services are to local people.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Denise Erichsen's kindergartners were proud to be chosen to deliver 775 pounds of food to the Spring Valley Area Food Shelf last Monday morning and meet food shelf volunteers Carol Gross and Rita Hartert. Hartert shows a few of the students some of the supplies while explaining how important the food shelf's services are to local people. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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"I brought my strength today!" declared a student from Denise Erichsen's kindergarten class as he hauled a basket heavy with food items into the former dining room of the Spring Valley Area Food Shelf farmhouse last Monday.

His load was only part of a literal busload of food donations gathered by Kingsland kindergarten through third grade students as part of the "Give Thanks, Give Back" food drive held at the elementary and middle schools Nov. 18 through 24.

Erichsen's students were chosen to deliver the goods because their class won the school-wide competition to bring in the most donations - they brought 121 of the 857 items that totaled 775 pounds of food. They enjoyed every minute of the "crammed-into-the-bus-with-food" trip to the food shelf and the opportunity to haul baskets, bags and boxes of nonperishable food into the house and help volunteers weigh it and put it into the spare storeroom.

Spring Valley Area Food Shelf volunteer Rita Hartert rounded up the students to show them how the food shelf operates, pointing out the macaroni and cheese, the baby food, noodles, Hamburger Helper, the soap, toilet paper, canned vegetables and more.

"Welcome to the food shelf house," she told the students. "We're so glad you're here."

Immediately, one student exclaimed, "You've got a lot of stuff!"

Hartert countered, "but a lot of families have five or six kids, and maybe Grandma and Grandpa live with them, too. So they need lots of food. These shelves get emptied fast." She went on to explain how the items that are in the food shelf's pantry get there. "People like you donate food items, and then we weigh the food that comes in, and we also weigh the food that goes out. It all goes to help people have the food they need."

Another student was impressed by the number of refrigerators standing in the old farmhouse kitchen, and volunteer Carol Gross said, "Some of the food you bring in has to be put in the refrigerator, and that's why we have lots of refrigerators."

Kingsland Elementary Principal Chris Priebe, Kingsland transportation director Kevin Klomps and Kingsland Title I teacher Jennifer Campbell unloaded small parcels from the bus and a school van into the students' waiting hands, listening as the excitement of doing good bubbled over, even as some little ones took on loads they said were "getting heavy" but refused to hand over to the grownups.

Priebe told the kindergarteners, "You folks are amazing! You did the greatest! Doesn't it feel good to help people?"

And the answer?

A resounding 16-kindergartener "YES!"