Rotary Club of Yelm aims to collect 4,000 chili cans with drive

The event benefits the summer food program


The Rotary Club of Yelm is giving back to the youth in the community by teaming up with local schools and businesses for its second annual chili drive throughout the month of May. The can drive is part of its summer food program, which is entering its eighth year.

The organization, which has served the Yelm community since 2010, set a goal to collect 4,000 cans of chili from now until May 31 to help with the rising costs of food and the growing need to feed local youth during the summer.

Sandi Hanson, the club’s public image chair, club executive secretary and treasurer, said the chili drive was added to the summer program last year because chili was one of the more expensive items in their food bags that they distribute.

“Last year, we were looking at all of the increases in expenses, and we thought we’d pick just one item and see if we could do a mass drive and get enough for that one item for the summer,” she said. “We collected about 2,600 cans last year, and this year we got a little bit more organized and started earlier.”

For the chili drive, donors can drop off cans at the Yelm Community Schools district office, the Rainier School District district office, Grocery Outlet, and Edward Jones — Pamela Ferris. Participants can also contact the Rotary Club of Yelm to arrange a pickup.

The summer food program is the club’s primary annual event, which delivered 3,687 bags of food to children, containing 118,000 items, in the community last summer. More than 65 individuals volunteered their time with over 800 volunteer hours. In addition to chili, donated bags can contain tuna, ravioli, juice boxes, granola bars, microwave popcorn, instant oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, and other snacks.

“For me, it’s all about the kids. When we started this program, we were helping other groups bag their food, and we asked, ‘What happens in the summer?’ And they said they don’t do it in the summer,” Hanson said. “But the kids are still hungry. So that’s when we started. I just don’t want any child to be hungry. There shouldn’t be a barrier for their learning. We want to make sure that those kids have something in their belly and don’t have to worry about where the food’s coming from.”

The Rotary Club of Yelm is involved with other projects in the community, including the Yelm High School Student of the Month program, snack pantries at all Yelm schools, the “Great Kindness Challenge” in the Yelm elementary schools, highway cleanups and mini grants for Yelm elementary teachers. The organization awarded 16 grants to teachers, up to $500 each.

To learn more about the chili drive, the summer food program and the Rotary Club of Yelm, visit