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The students of Loyola Sacred Heart High School were busy Tuesday delivering sacks of last-minute Christmas cheer to families across Missoula.

The morning marked the end of Loyola’s annual food drive, when all the donations were brought into the auditorium for weighing to determine which class won the traditional schoolwide competition.

Danner Linhart, Loyola’s student body president, said his classmates went out into the community – asking businesses for help, but also soliciting donations door-to-door in their neighborhoods – to bring in donations.

“It’s a way to come together and collaborate as a school, and fulfill our mission of service,” he said. “Everybody knows it’s not just an event, it’s a season, and it’s a priority.”

Linhart said the goal for the school this year was 19,000 pounds. The students reached that goal and then some.

In fact, Loyola set a school record for the food drive this year, bringing in 24,127 pounds. Of that total, Linhart and his fellow seniors contributed 10,557 pounds, or about 211 pounds per Loyola senior, more than any of the other classes.

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While the seniors tend to bring in the most every year, student council adviser Dave Klein said underclassmen have come through and won the food drive competition in the past.

“We talk about academics a lot, but this is what students will remember,” he said. “I still have alumni who come up to me every year at this time and they want to know how the food drive is going.”

The food drive has been a Loyola end-of-semester tradition for 35 years, starting with about 4,000 pounds of food when it was first held, eventually growing into the auditorium-filling results of recent years.

At the end of the food drive, the senior class is split into nine groups, each of which are assigned a handful of the 48 families who were beneficiaries of the drive this year.

The school doesn’t simply donate the food to a local aid organization, the seniors pack it into vehicles and deliver it to the families in person.

Linhart said local companies like Sheehan Majestic, Coca-Cola and Albertsons really came through when they were asked for donations. Bags of rice, cans of soup, chicken, turkeys, potatoes, fruit, soda and candy covered the gymnasium floor as he walked back to his group.

Colin McCormack, Loyola’s marketing director, said the amount of food each family received is not only enough for the holiday, but for well into the winter.

“This really is a merry Christmas present, they’re each going to get about 500 pounds of food,” he said.

Senior Erik Short grabbed canned food and vegetables from the floor and placed them in a plastic bag between his feet. He said once all the food is assembled in the auditorium, the students separate it out by packaging and food group before putting it into the vehicles.

“Then when we get to a home, we can partition out that amount that goes to that family,” Short said.

While the rest of the grade levels at Loyola were in classes for a half day on Tuesday before their Christmas break began, the seniors' day started before school. The seniors' vacation began as soon as the last of the food was delivered.

“It’s a great way to cap off a semester and head into the holidays,” McCormack said.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.