Christmas Food Drive Turns 80

In 1936, near the end of the Great Depression, a student society at Saint Ignatius helped alleviate the burdens of a few neighborhood families by delivering a simple Christmas meal.

More than 10 percent of Americans were unemployed. The average new house cost $4,100 and bread cost nine cents per loaf. Franklin D. Roosevelt was President of the United States and his ‘New Deal’ was helping transform life for everyday Americans.

Eighty years later, the Rini Family Christmas Food Drive, as it is known today, continues to be a student-driven service initiative that meets the needs of Cleveland families through a basic basket of goods. After eight decades, however, the drive looks a little bit different from its heyday.

Roughly 100 students make up the Core Team of the food drive each year, which provides a Christmas meal to 700 needy families around the city. They spend weeks organizing, raising money, creating publicity, contacting families and sorting the thousands of dollars and items that students bring in during the weeks preceding delivery day. The work of filling, moving and loading baskets up for delivery takes the entire team 12 hours in the days that begin Christmas break.

While Saint Ignatius High School has supported the food drive since its inception, it received a big boost in 2014 when the family of the late Chuck Rini, Sr. chose to endow the food drive. Known for the longtime grocery chain Rini-Rego’s, the Rini Family’s gift to Saint Ignatius helps to ensure that the drive has sufficient goods to make each basket recipient’s delivery complete. The Dzurec Family Foundation also contributes in a major way by covering costs for 700 gallons of milk and packages of butter. These tremendous gifts all supplement the donations of “4 cans and 4 dollars” that students bring in during the weeks leading up to the drive.

At 6 a.m. on December 17, the 2016 Rini Family Christmas Food Drive Core Team will gather to make final preparations for delivery of baskets across Cleveland. At 8:30 a.m., families, friends and alumni are invited to St. Mary’s Chapel for Mass, followed by breakfast and basket delivery.

The food drive is one of Saint Ignatius’s longest-standing and most wide-reaching traditions. Won’t you join us to celebrate 80 years of giving?