The annual Christmas Food Drive has seen a lot of change in the last 81 years.
When the initiative began in the 1930s, it was the student-led Sodality group that organized a simple food collection and walked some food baskets to the homes of perhaps a half-dozen Ohio City families.
Since then, the drive has grown to serve 100 families to now 700 today. It requires the commitment and contributions of the entire Saint Ignatius community, with the catch phrase “4 Cans, 4 Dollars, 4 Others” engrained in Ignatius tradition. The drive is supplemented by generous donations from sponsors and supporters like the Dzurec family, the Schroer family, Giant Eagle, Sanson Co., and of course the Rini family after whom the present-day drive is named.
Still, after all the evolution and change, the food drive remains a student-led, student-driven Christian Service Initiative. This year, the CFD Core Team numbers about 90 students, who take ownership of everything from publicizing the drive to filling the food baskets to calling all 700 recipients and ensuring that delivery will go smoothly on Saturday, December 16.
Junior Zach Houde has been involved with the food drive since he was in 8th grade, when he delivered baskets to Riverview Towers on West 25th Street with his father and brother, Riley ‘17. As a freshman, Zach returned to Riverview before deciding as a sophomore that he wanted to take on a bigger role.
“Delivery day is honestly one of my favorite days of the year—even better than Christmas,” Houde says. “In Sophomore Service we learned that we should try to be the face of Christ to others, and I think the food drive is a great exemplifier of that.”
These days, the Christmas Food Drive is an initiative of The Christian Action Team, which oversees programs like the Labre Ministry, the pallbearers, Arrupe after-school programs and Friends with L’Arche. A team of six adults works alongside students to help shepherd the drive from start to finish and help students make connections between the work and their faith.
For the 2017 drive, a quote from Pope Francis calls these participants back to the role of the church in the world:
“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
Christian Seybert ’18 began delivering food baskets as a sixth grader and follows in the footsteps of his brother Zach ’10. As a three-year Core Team member, he sees the reality of Pope Francis’s words.
“It’s one thing to learn the Theology of it,” he says, “But once you actually apply it—that bruised church, you see the bruises essentially and what needs to be helped and fixed to get back to full health.”
Delivering baskets can be an uncomfortable experience as people see the circumstances in which others live. Grappling with that—and embracing it—is all about learning how to serve those in need.
“When I first did it, I was uncomfortable,” Seybert says. “As I got older, I was the one willing to grab the basket and I wanted to talk to the people we were delivering to.”
In the spirit of the season and the mission of the food drive, basket delivery day begins with a community Mass at 8:30 a.m. in St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel. Fr. Dan Reim, S.J., as well as other members of the Jesuit community, will celebrate this liturgy. Breakfast follows immediately in Rade Dining Hall, then cars will line up along Lorain Avenue to pick up their baskets and maps in the chapel parking lot.
In that chapel lot will be an energized group of Saint Ignatius students, who come together to form a genuine team. Basket delivery day is their Super Bowl.
“It’s a lot more fun than it might seem,” Seybert says. “It’s right around Christmas and everyone’s always in a good mood. There’s camaraderie. The seniors in the back of the meetings yelling ‘Core Team’ kinda gets the younger guys pumped.”
For 81 years, Saint Ignatius students have been doing the ‘dirty’ work to serve a bruised church. They find joy in their labor, in going out on the streets to bring love and hope to families in need at Christmas. Indeed, this is a Saint Ignatius education at its very best.