Starting next week, Holy Cross Collegiate (HCC) and the Strathmore Fire Department (SFD) will be locked into a friendly battle: who can raise more food for the Wheatland County Foodbank?

While the competition is friendly, there will be a prize for the winning group so the competitive fire should still be there. SFD Chief David Sturgeon explained the class at HCC that raises the most food will be treated to a barbecue put on by the firefighters, but if the firefighters manage to raise more than the top-raising class, that class will have to do something in return for the SFD.

"If we collect more, then during their barbecue they're going to have to wash our trucks. And if they collect more, then they just get a barbecue with no strings attached," Sturgeon said.

With the collecting starting on February 27 and running until March 10, HCC teacher Carla Bisharat said she expects the students to be ready. On top of the big prize of the barbecue, Bisharat added the school will have incentives throughout their campaign like offering extended lunches, doughnuts, and more for the top classes at certain points.

"Our student body is generous and we're hoping it goes well," Bisharat said.

While HCC will primarily be raising donations through their students, Bisharat added if you're interested in donating to the school you can visit their office and do so there. As for the firefighters, they teamed up with the RCMP to help with collections around the community. Sturgeon said the SFD and RCMP will be dropping food bank collection bags in several communities and will pick them up at a later date specified on the bags.

On top of that, you can also donate to the SFD at several locations on Saturdays, where you may see them with their truck parked outside of places like grocery stores collecting donations.

While both sides of the contest obviously want to win, Bisharat and Sturgeon both said at the end of the day, it's all about helping the Wheatland County Foodbank, so they would be happy to accept defeat if it means more food was raised to help families in need.

"We're honestly both trying to raise supplies for a worthy cause," Bisharat said. 

As for why the SFD got involved in the first place, Sturgeon explained the department is always looking for ways to increase their community visibility and help out where they can.

"We're just trying to find out ways where we can connect with the community and do other things to help the residents out. We felt this would be one that we could coordinate quite easily with our resources and obviously have the fun element of doing a challenge. So for us, it's about trying to give back to the community where we can," he said. 

He added food banks can get a little dry after Christmas, so the timing of the challenge could help during a time where the need is greater than usual.

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