Parkway West girls soccer coach Annie Wayland remains undefeated in annual competitions with Longhorns softball coach Jeff Chazen, but needy citizens in West County are the real winners.
“This is our sixth year doing the food drive competition,” Wayland said. “I am currently 6-0 with Chazen gaining on me year after year. This year, I was definitely sweating it. But, in reality, the only real winner here is the Parkway Food Pantry, because without the combined efforts of our teams, this amount of goods would not be possible. Strength in numbers for sure.”
Other teachers in the department help out as well in the annual event. Those on Wayland’s team were Nancy Sachtleben, Lara Boles, Jim Hermann, Zaven Nalbandian, Megan Hornsby and Rebecca Nuckols. Teachers on Chazen’s team were Kristen Collin, Amy Thornhill, Mel Trotier, John Wright and Brent Wildhaber.
For the past six years, the Parkway West social studies department has participated in this service-learning project, which is connected to the Great Depression unit taught in the school’s modern U.S. history classes.
“The U.S. history unit falls after Thanksgiving and before the end of the semester when holiday season was well under way, so it seemed to fit seamlessly,” Wayland said. “This was a time in history when so many people had so little and many struggled just to provide for the necessities for their families. Today, there is still a need for food and every day supplies in our own community.”
The service-learning project consists of a canned food drive challenge for Team Wayland and Team Chazen. Over a two-week period, the students bring in canned food items to be donated to the Parkway Food Pantry, which serves needy families in the Parkway district during the holiday season.
“We encourage those that are able to give to donate any items possible to help fill up the Parkway Food Pantry so that families that need assistance can get the food needed. The kids love knowing they are helping out their own community and having the opportunity to give back to the district that has provided them so very much over the years.”
This year, around 5,200 items were collected.
“Everyone is very excited,” Chazen said about the new record. “Things go intense toward the end of the week. We continue to amaze and rise up toward great causes and our great community.”
Wayland said she is not shocked that another record was set by the students.
“Our community has always been very altruistic, kind and thoughtful. The amount of goods collected [through] this food drive was absolutely incredible, yet also not surprising,” Wayland said. “The West community has always had a knack for stepping up and helping their own in times of need. We explained to our students that the need at the pantry was great, especially this time of year, and that anything they could do donation-wise would help. The students really took that to heart and got very involved in this food drive, creating a fun and healthy competition for a great cause.”
Wayland added that it’s a great lesson for the students, saying, “We recognize the importance of character education along with content and trying to utilize opportunities like these to set good examples for our students. This is another example of showing how much Parkway truly cares about its community. Our kids have been excellent examples of the kindness and altruism that is needed at this time in this world. We are very proud of them.”
Every one of the thousands of items donated will go to fellow students and families in need.
“Parkway West is an amazing place, and when it comes to helping out our own, we have a real knack for coming together. This year’s event was definitely a success,” Wayland said.
As for Chazen, even though he lost again, he said he is happy and pleased the students are helping to make a difference.
“It is the only thing that keeps me going after losing six straight years in a row,” Chazen quipped.