A full-size pickup and two other vehicles loaded with holiday season goods pulled up to the WICAP office and community pantry in Payette on Friday.
It was the latest annual delivery of donations in what is now a 10-year-old tradition for members of the Payette High School Class of 1962.
After the vehicles arrived, several PHS alumni from the ’62 class pitched in to help WICAP employees unload all of the purchases. Toys and games, soccer balls, canned vegetables and other canned foods, bags of flour and potatoes, peanut butter, stuffing mix and, even, a countertop oven were among the wide assortment.
Tammy Hichert, the office’s community services coordinator, said the donations arrived in time to help fill late-arriving orders for holiday boxes for households in need that weren’t already served by Help Them To Hope.
“We’re a partner with Help Them To Hope, but any families that didn’t get signed up in time, then this is a way that we can service those families,” Hichert said.
Class member Robert Strong and wife Marie Strong, who live in New Meadows, started the tradition in 2008, along with ’62 classmate Dan Crosswhite. Robert said they undertook the project that first year without expecting anyone else to help, but as other members of the graduating class learned what these three had done, those Pirates all tossed their hooks onto the deck and boarded ship.
Robert said approximately 30 of the ‘62 Pirates are regular donors to the project, with a sprinkling of additional support coming from family and friends who are in other Sixties classes.
Several years ago Crosswhite, a regular participant in the annual Robie Creek Run, started soliciting pledges for his efforts in that event to donate to WICAP.
Robert said this season’s monetary donations from the Class of ’62 totaled around $2,700.
On delivery day, approximately eight to 12 classmates gather for lunch at a restaurant in Payette, and afterwards they head out to Wal-Mart in Ontario to perform the shopping, clutching lists Robert has prepared — this year, he wrote seven lists. Shoppers were given monetary ranges in which to land their totals, and it was important not to spend below the minimum.
Robert said the reason he began the yearly project was to fulfill a vow he had made long ago.
“You have to understand, I grew up in a poor family, and the Kiwanis, the Jaycees, the Eagles, and a lot of organizations back then brought us Christmas baskets and everything. And I promised then that if I could do it, I was going to pay it forward. Well, I was lucky enough to work for UPS for twenty-three years, I played music, I cut some records and did a little bit of that kind of thing, so that I was able to be able to move forward to do it. But, in the process, my classmates stepped up and stepped forward and said, not by yourself, and this is where it went from there.”
A month before the Holiday Season shopping trip, the Class of ’62 provides food to WICAP in time for Thanksgiving, an addition the class made to the giving project in 2014. That delivery includes more fresh items, Robert said.
“We do it at Thanksgiving, and then we do it at Christmas,” Robert said. “Thanksgiving we do from twenty-four families, the whole meal, and then at Christmas we just restock the shelves. My wife and I shop year-round for bargains and case-good sales and that kind of thing …”
According to Hichert, there’s one other Pirates class that donates regularly to WICAP. It’s the Class of 1972, which concentrates on replenishing the food bank in spring. At that time of year, the supply of food is usually getting low, and when the school year ends there’s a spike in demand as financially struggling families suddenly have children back at home all day who aren’t being fed at school
Hichert praised the classes of 1962 and 1972 as compassionate groups “that give back to their community every single year.”