Wheatland Electric Cooperative recently completed its 3rd Annual “Cram the Van” food drive, collecting 9,363 pounds of food for local food banks and the people they serve in Kansas. Every donation collected in a particular community stayed in that community to benefit its local food bank.
This year Wheatland set out with the goal of topping 10 tons in total donations and with the help of their generous members, they blasted right through it. The cooperative and its members have collected more than 11 ½ tons in total donations over the last three years.
Cram the Van lasted just over six weeks and featured 11 stops in 10 different communities as the big red van made its way throughout Wheatland’s territory. Donations were also collected at its seven offices and two other drop off points in Conway Springs and Caldwell.
In Great Bend, Wheatland members donated 1,320 pounds of food, that’s more than 700 pounds more than last year! Donations collected in Great Bend were donated to the Barton County Food Bank. “It’s always exciting to see the big red van pull up. Each year the Cram the Van event gets more and more well known. It is really a blessing to us this time of year with the holidays and the change in weather approaching,” said Evelyn Essmiller. The food bank is open three days a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. “A big enjoyment that we get here is the excitement of the children. They come in and see all the food and you can see it on their faces, they are excited to take food home. They can sense what’s going on and this definitely makes a difference. It really touches my heart. I wish those who donate and who volunteer at the events could see how important the drive is and how impactful it is here on a daily basis. We are always so appreciative of everything we receive; all the donations get used.”
“When we started this event three years ago, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Bruce Mueller, general manager at Wheatland. “We were just hoping to make a positive impact in the communities we serve. I don’t think anyone imagined anything like this. Our members have really gotten behind this program. This was our biggest year yet and to surpass 11 tons in total donations in incredible. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this year’s drive a success, we couldn’t do it without you.”
At most Cram the Van events, Wheatland served a meal and, in exchange its members “paid” in the form of canned goods and cash donations. Cram the Van events varied from cooking hamburgers at home football games to grilling hot dogs and brats in front of community grocery stores. The final event of the annual drive has quickly become a community favorite in Scott City and a big source of donations. The event, complete with two food slides that drop donations directly into the van, pumpkin decorating, marshmallow roasting, hayrack rides, a pumpkin seed spitting contest and a free meal, is a fun time for all.
“These events are a lot of fun. We enjoy being out in the communities and getting a chance to interact with the members and joining forces for a good cause,” said Shawn Powelson, manager of member services and corporate communications for Wheatland. “It’s a lot of work but it’s very rewarding. Making the deliveries to the local food banks is one of my favorite parts. I love seeing the looks on their faces when we start unloading, literally, a ton of food at some locations. They’re always so appreciative of the donations, whether it’s a ton or a few hundred pounds.”