OGDEN -- Samantha Singerhoff scoped out one of the bigger boxes in the pile and flexed her muscles.
"I want this one," laughed the blonde Horace Mann Elementary sixth grader. "Because there is nothing in it."
While that box was empty, there were several others chuck full with all manner of canned goods. Singerhoff and other sixth graders counted and sorted all 2,400 cans into boxes and loaded them into a truck bound for the Salvation Army Friday morning.
It's just one of many service projects being spearheaded by schools in Weber and Davis counties this December. Most of the projects include raising money or collecting food for local charities and food shelters through creative means.
"There were a lot of students with bulging backpacks," said April Brough, a counselor and organizer of the project. "Many of the students' families are not filthy rich and are giving food when they could be using it themselves. The kids have been very generous."
The students at Horace Mann collected enough cans to stretch across three football fields in about seven school days.
At Mount Ogden Junior High, students, faculty and staff have been doing what they call "Change for Children" in which students donate pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in order to provide Christmas for 20 struggling Mount Ogden families. As of Friday afternoon, the school was very close to its $5,000 goal, which means not one teacher can assign homework over winter break and principal Trevor Wilson, teacher Betsy Galbraith, secretary Kristi DeHaan, and staff member Christy Noseworthy had to skydive from an airplane. Wilson had to jump in Pine View Reservoir last winter when the school reached its goal.
"I really am not a thrill-seeker," Wilson said.
The school has raised more than $25,000 in four years with the help of students, families and local businesses.
The majority of schools in the Weber, Ogden City and Davis school districts have organized similar service projects.
Weber School District
Lakeview Elementary organized a food drive and will donate all items to the Jiffy Lube Food Bank dropoff in Roy.
North Ogden Junior High had two charitable drives. First, the National Junior Honor Society stocked 90 gift bags for kids with toys and other items and filled eight big boxes of gloves and other winter clothing. The student government also organized a "Knights Change for Change" campaign to collect spare change for the month of December. The money will go to families in the school community needing extra help.
Two Rivers High School is collecting money and food for the Northern Utah Food Bank. Students are also donating to the Flores family. Robert Flores was a student at the school school who was killed in an automobile accident on Dec. 11.
T.H. Bell Junior High students collected money and canned goods for needy families. They called the drive "canapalooza." Big tubs of food will be donated to are families and the food bank. Money collected will be used to purchase gift cards to local stores and distributed to needy families.
North Ogden Elementary has decorated a Christmas tree with new scarfs, hats and matching gloves for those without such items. Any food collected was placed under the tree for needy families.
Riverdale Elementary collected food and money from local businesses, school patrons and students to sponsor 29 students and their families. Each family will receive food, Christmas dinner and presents for the kids. Riverdale police will make delivery to each home on Tuesday.
Since Thanksgiving, Weber High School has worked on a "Quarters and Cans" project. The proceeds will benefit families with large medical bills. Collected canned food will be donated to the food bank. Students organized a blood drive to donate 79 units of blood and numerous young women donated hair for wigs for women who have cancer. Weber High's FCCLA club has also helped tie 12 quilts for families during the month of December.
Orion Junior High School has teamed up with Weber High School on the Quarters and Cans charitable service project. They provided more than 4,000 cans and $1,000 in cash for needy families.
Roy Elementary peer leaders collected more than 1,000 food items. Instead of giving gifts to each other, the staff is doing Sub for Santa for some local families.
Fremont High School students and staff raised more than $24,000 for families in their community.
At Rocky Mountain Junior High, peer tutors sold doughnuts for four days and raised enough money to help three families with Christmas. These families will receive gift cards, food, and shoe vouchers. The PTA sponsored a canned food drive competition between the grades. The food will be delivered anonymously to families in Rocky's boundaries and any excess will be taken to the St. Anne's Homeless Shelter. Eighth grade officers also collected donations from students through a variety of competitions and raised more than $2,000 to help support two Zambian elementary schools for an entire year.
Bates Elementary did a "Quarters and Cans" food drive to help three families. Students brought cans and put them in either the BYU pile or the Utah pile.
The Roy Junior High National Junior Honor Society raised more than $400 by collecting change in a one-week class competition. Student government also collected more than 300 canned food items at the holiday dance.
Sand Ridge Junior High did its annual "Quarters and Cans" drive. In one week students and faculty raised more than $2,000 and collected more than 1,000 cans of food. The money will be used to help provide Christmas for nine families living within school boundaries. The cans went to Catholic Community Services.
Plain City Elementary has donated 1,400 pounds of food. One truck load of new clothing, personal items, new toys, and a small cash donation was delivered to the Christmas Box House.
Davis School District
Centerville's Stewart Elementary collected food, money and clothing for needy families.
Students at Snowhorse Elementary made hats and scarves to donate to the Frodsham Foundation.
Muir Elementary students collected socks to donate to the homeless shelter.
Farmington's Knowlton Elementary collected money to purchase shoes for low income children in Davis County.
Viewmont High School carried on a 23-year tradition of raising funds for Guadalupe Schools, which serves underpriviledged kids on the west side of Salt Lake City. Students also collected more than $27,000 in various fundraisers.
Sunset Junior High cheerleaders played Santa this year by raising funds to purchase Sub for Santa gifts for nine children. They also decorated -- with the help of student body officers -- a University of Utah-themed Christmas Tree for Festival of Trees that sold for $1,400 and benefited Primary Children's Medical Center.
At West Clinton Elementary, students provided essentials for residents of remote areas of the Navajo reservation, including clothing items, hygiene products and food.
Syracuse Junior High students raised money to purchase humanitarian kits to send to Third World countries.
East Layton Elementary spearheaded a project to raise money to provide a Christmas for three families in the area, including one family that lost its home in a fire. Individual classrooms held food drives, made quilts, and blankets and donated toys to Primary Children's Hospital.
Whitesides Elementary held a food drive to benefit many students whose families fall below the poverty line.
With several students in the district coming from military families, schools have also been focusing overseas by writing letters to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ogden City School District
Lincoln Elementary is sponsoring Christmas for three families.
James Madison Elementary students received toys, crayons, coloring books from North Ogden Junior High.
Polk Elementary conducted a holiday fundraiser and service project.
T.O. Smith Elementary students brought loose change for Pennies for Patients and donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The goal was to to reach $1,200 school wide.
Wasatch Elementary is sponsoring three families in conjunction with Kiwanis Club. They provide necessities, food, big needs, and some fun things for the holiday. In addition, the PTA and Wasatch Canned Food Drive: donated to Washington Heights Baptist Pantry.
Shadow Valley Elementary is sponsoring five or six families for the holidays. Fifth grade student Dallin Ewart and a few friends raised $300 from the community and local businesses. He and his friends then bought things for other children in need.
Hillcrest Elementary collected 2,074 cans of food and donated them to the Salvation Army. They also collected $76.22 in a quarater drive, sponsored a clothing drive for students and family members who suffered loss from a recent fire and sixth graders donated 20 scarves and 20 blankets for teens at Shriners Hospital.
Bonneville Elementary conducted two food drives and raised approximately 1,000 cans for the Ogden Food Bank and $500 in food donations for St. Anne's.
Gramercy Elementary held Operation Christmas, filling shoebox-size boxes with gifts for children in other countries.
Heritage Elementary and the Accelerated Learning Academy combined efforts in a project, "Give the Gift of Reading", providing books and other fun items for the Christmas Box House.
At Highland Junior High, a canned food collection rasied food for Highland families and St. Anne's Food Bank.
Mound Fort Junior High supported 20 families for Christmas.
Ben Lomond High School has had a number of projects, including providing quilts and hats, cleaning a Salvation Army warehouse, a food and coat drive, Sub for Santa, and a "Coins for Kids" fund raiser with the money going to the Christmas Box House.
Ogden High School held a clothing and toy drive, for donations to the Marshall White Center. The Junior ROTC also participated Toys for Tots.
Washington High School took part in a Christmas Box House Service Project.
Weber State University
Several organizations at Weber State University have spent the holiday season trying to make life a little merrier for some members of the community.
The Veterans Upward Bound office held its eighth annual "Shoeboxes for Homeless Veterans" drive this fall. They collected more than 200 shoeboxes, providing items to share with homeless veterans in two Salt Lake City locations in addition to the Homeless Veterans Fellowship in Ogden.
Each year, the Women's Center on campus accepts applications from students who are single mothers, requesting holiday assistance. This year the WSU Police Academy cadets, Continuing Education, the Women's Center staff, University Advancement and several anonymous donors combined to sponsor 36 families.
Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-medical student organization on campus, provided holiday gifts for a family through Your Community Connection's "Spirit of Giving" drive. Seventeen club members provided gifts for a family with four children with donations valued at approximately $500.
The Information Technology division sponsored a food drive that 45 people donated to. Nearly 240 pounds of non-perishable food was given to the Utah Food Bank and approximately $100 of store-prepared food for immediate consumption was given to the St. Anne's Center.
The Community Involvement Center sponsored an Angel Tree for the Salvation Army featuring 200 tags with requests and needs. WSU students, faculty and staff helped provide Christmas for the children on the tree.
The WSU Bookstore and the CIC's Volunteer Involvement Program organized a "Fill the Sleigh" charitable event with Santa and his reindeer that collected donated items for the Ogden Rescue Mission. The drive resulted in the donation of 651 pounds of items valued at nearly $2,800 and more than $400 in cash contributions to the Ogden Rescue Mission.
Information for this story was provided by the individual school districts and Weber State University.