WHITLEY COUNTY - The Whitley Area Retired Teachers (WARTA) will be meeting Thursday, Dec. 12 at 10:30 a.m. at the Whitley County Extension Office in an effort to collect food for this year's "Help Feed KY" food drive.

According to WARTA President, Ronnie Partin, the "Help Feed KY" food drive is a statewide project that retired teachers all across Kentucky participate in. Last year, Partin says WARTA was able to raise approximately $800 total in food distributions, and monetary contributions.

"Members can either bring non-perishable food items, but many of them just make a monetary contribution, then we just go to the local grocery stores and purchase food," said Partin.

Like years past, the food collected during this year's food drive will be split evenly between Emergency Christian Ministries, a drug-rehabilitation clinic in Williamsburg, and the Everlasting Arms, Inc., a homeless shelter in Corbin.

Patin says that WARTA will be partnering with the Whitley County Public Library for this year's food drive.

"We have a great partner in that, the Whitley County Library. They set up a box where people can bring in canned food, or non-perishable food items in-lieu of paying fines. That's helped us out a lot, it's increased the amount of food that we have."

Comprised of nearly 150 retired teachers from school districts in Whitley County, WARTA aims at assisting teachers who retired from either the Williamsburg School District, Corbin School District, or the Whitley County School District.

"Our main purpose is to kind of keep track of what's going on in the legislation with the retirement benefits of retired teachers, and the pension," said Partin. "We try to stay aware and alert of what's going on there, and make our voices are heard when things are coming up in the legislation."

The organization also takes part in numerous community projects throughout our region each year. According to Partin, during WARTA's October meeting, the group collects school supplies, and donates them to the resource centers at local elementary schools.

"Then in March we support a local organization," explained Partin. "For the last few years we've supported the Independence House in Corbin which is a drug-rehabilitation center for women."

WARTA also participates in a national Grandparent of the Year essay contest sponsored by Kentucky Retired Teachers Association (KRTA) and AARP Kentucky. During the contest, students are tasked with writing a story explaining why their grandparents should be considered AARP's Grandparent of the Year.

According to Partin, fifth grade teachers across the state assign the letter as a writing assignment. Once the assignments are turned in, the teacher picks one nominee from their classroom. The winning stories from each fifth grade class are then re-evaluated and winner from each school is chosen.

From there, winners and their submissions are sent to Partin who helps in deciding a county winner. County winners are then judged until a district winner is chosen, until ultimately a state winner is crowned.

"Then, all of the districts across the state select one winner for the state that is then recognized at our retired teachers conference in April," Partin explained about the contest.

"It's been one of the more rewarding things that I've done, and what it does is it highlights the number of grandparents involved in raising, or contributing to the raising of their grandchildren. Some of those essays are heartbreaking, all of them are heartwarming, but a lot of them are heartbreaking."

Winners from each level of the competition are rewarded, with the state overall winner receiving a $100 check. The grandparent of the winner, and the subject of their letter, will receive a commemorative award. The teacher of the winning student is also recognized and given an award to be used on teaching supplies.

Partin says that he would like to invite all retired teachers in the area to join the Whitley Area Retired Teachers Association. To do so, simply contact a current member or contact Partin directly by calling him at (606) 304-2578.

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