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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

First Weber-Make a Smooth move

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Zion Lutheran schoolchildren march up Brown Street Monday morning, carrying donations for the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry. The school raised a total of 2,900 pounds of food for the food pantry. (Karla Wotruba/River News)
Zion Lutheran schoolchildren march up Brown Street Monday morning, carrying donations for the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry. The school raised a total of 2,900 pounds of food for the food pantry. (Karla Wotruba/River News)
11/21/2012 7:30:00 AM
Zion exceeds food drive challenge by more than a whisker

A shave and a haircut is worth a lot these days at Zion Lutheran School in Rhinelander.

As part of Zion's Kids for Christ community service organization, students were challenged to raise one ton - 2,000 pounds - of food for the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry. If they were successful, teacher Paul Mildebrandt would be shaved bald, and teacher and Principal Tim Ristow would lose his beard.

Suffice it to say, both will be a little chillier this winter.

"It gave our school a chance to give God some glory, and to reflect Christ's love to people in our community, and to have a little fun with it too," Ristow said.

The food drive started Nov. 5, and the students, unlike years past, were given incentives along the way, such as wearing flip flops to school, a school-wide movie, and finally, new hairdos for their teachers. A chart showing the students' progress toward their goal hung in the hallway as a reminder.

While Zion has had food drives before, school officials decided to take the project up a notch and set an especially ambitious goal this year. The students had two weeks to meet the challenge.

In the past, Zion had not measured the amount of its donation. This year, the school kept track. "This time we literally took every food item brought in and put it on our health scale, and weighed it. I did the math, and added strips on our board out in the hall as they achieved that," teacher Deb Treder said.

Was there ever any doubt? Not according to the principal.

"I was counting on them doing it," Ristow said. "We were counting on having them meet all of their goals."

In total, the 80 students raised 1,600 pounds of dry goods, and a cash donation which allowed them to purchase 124 turkeys, at 1,300 pounds. The turkeys were delivered to the pantry on Nov. 15, but the rest of the food was delivered by the students themselves.

On Monday morning, the students marched down Brown Street toward the food pantry, carrying what they could. The kids chanted, "No more hair! No more hair!" as the made their way down the street. Passing cars honked in support. What they couldn't carry, they drove in a trailer, loading the elevator of the pantry with boxes, bags, and cans of food destined for families in need.

"They were excited, they were really excited. I think that they were aware (of the need), especially being able to go there. Some of them actually said, 'So where is this place?' We are lucky that we are this close so that we could do that," Treder said.

Next up for the students was haircuts. On Tuesday, the school held a Thanksgiving meal, but Mildebrandt and Ristow were the mealtime highlight.

Mildebrandt was first. After the students once again chanted, "No more hair!", his wife, Katie, a preschool teacher at the school, had the honor of shaving his head. Ristow was up next, and the school's four eighth graders shaved his beard, which he's had for 20 years.

Ristow said he hopes that people will take note of what 80 students were able to do in two weeks time, and will be inspired to do more.

"If they can see 80 students being able to raise that amount of food in that amount of time, we can hopefully do more to help," he said.

A ton and a half of food is significant, but Ristow knows that the food pantry distributes far more than that. He said he spoke with the pantry about the donation.

"When I talked to the folks at the food bank yesterday, I asked them, 'how long will a ton and a half of food last?' They said they go through about 3,000 pounds every time they're open," he said. "I let the kids know, that's one day's food supply. So we have a lot of work to do in our community yet, and hopefully this isn't the end of our students' participation, and their families' participation in helping the food bank, because there's a growing need after this. Hopefully it will spur on some giving from our families, and maybe our community, too."

The donation is sizable for the school, but Ristow keeps it in perspective.

"It is quite an accomplishment, but we want to give God the glory for it," he said. "We're always thankful for God's blessings to us, and this is one of our responses to his blessings. They (the students) do understand that there are people in our community that are hungry, and do need the help, and it's our responsibility to help them."

Treder said the food drive is all part of learning the lesson of giving.

"Really what matters is they are always aware that it is a wonderful thing to give rather than to receive, and they really exemplify that as a student body. They were very generous, family after family, even sometimes families that you know didn't have that all extra. They went to the store and bought and bought," she said. "There are so many people that really are grateful for the help, and we should continue to help."

Treder said she is proud of the students for coming through on the challenge.

"I'm very proud of the fact not only that they rose to that challenge, but that they continue to show in their actions and their lives that they love Jesus and want to share him with the world in their words and actions. This is what it's all about. Even if we don't have a challenge like this, which is quite significant, I do believe that they will rise to each and every occasion that they can share their own faith and spirit," she said. "In a season like this, you can't get better than that."

Karla Wotruba may be reached at

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012
Article comment by: Nancy Vevea

A big thank you to the students, teachers, and principal involved in this generous activity. Your hard work and sense of humor are an inspiration to this community. Absolutely a wonderful effort!

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