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Elmira teens ready for an evening of CAN-do

Jaron Bowman is spearheading the 12th annual CANS food drive in Elmira, run by Woodside Bible Fellowship on Halloween. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

When you’re piling up your shopping cart with sugary treats for this year’s ghosts and ghouls, make sure you throw in some canned food too. Members of Woodside Bible Fellowship will be once again hitting the streets of Elmira on Halloween to gather much-needed items for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

Jaron Bowman is spearheading the 12th annual CANS food drive in Elmira, run by Woodside Bible Fellowship on Halloween.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Jaron Bowman is spearheading the 12th annual CANS food drive in Elmira, run by Woodside Bible Fellowship on Halloween. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Jaron Bowman, 14, is one of the organizers. He said there will be about 70 high school students gathering food in Elmira. They’ll head out at 6:30 and have 13 routes planned.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to get involved and to help out the community,” Bowman said.

In 2013 more than 50 volunteers raised approximately 3,255 pounds of food. He said this year’s goal is to gather 4,000 pounds for its 12th year.

“Last year the weather wasn’t that great, so the turnout wasn’t as good as it normally is,” Bowman said.

The food drive, CANS (Citizens Always Need Supper), was started by Dustin Martin as a way to reach out to those who need help in the community. Martin started it when he was 12 years old with a small group of friends who wanted to do something on Halloween instead of collecting candy.

The event grew from there. In 2009, 130 volunteers participated and more than 5,000 pounds of food was raised.

The food drive isn’t limited to members of Woodside.

“The senior youth at Woodside don’t necessarily go to the church,” Bowman said. “It’s different than actual church, it’s run on Friday nights and we have fun events and bible studies.”

Bowman has been going to Woodside his whole life. This is his first time running a charity event.

The most needed items at the food bank now are peanut butter, beans in sauce, canned fish, canned fruit, cold cereal and canned pasta.

The Woolwich Community Services food bank draws on resources from the regional organization when they run short on items. The group also typically gathers more than the Woolwich location can store, so it only makes sense to send it to larger centre.

Bowman said most people aren’t surprised when teenagers show up on their doorstep the collect non-perishable food items instead of candy. While some locals were sceptical in its beginning, the food drive has become something of a Woolwich tradition, handing out candy and cans side-by-side.

“I hope to raise more than last year and I just hope that I can help people in need in the community and have a successful year, as it’s my first year running it.”

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