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The atmosphere was festive Saturday morning at the Linn County Expo Center where more than 200 volunteers worked to prepare 80,000 non-perishable meals for local food banks and 900 backpacks of school supplies for area students.

The event, United Way of Linn County’s Day of Action 2019, was sponsored by ATI, OFD Foods, Weyerhaeuser, and Georgia-Pacific.

Becca McKay, an ATI employee and one of the event’s coordinator’s, said in addition to sponsoring the purchase of the foods packaged at the event, the companies supplied nearly all of the volunteers who prepared the meals.

McKay said the school supplies were collected through a donation drive, and the backpacks were also packed with three books requested in advance by the kids who will receive the backpacks. 

The backpacks went to students at Central Linn Elementary School, Green Acres School, Lafayette Elementary School, Tangent Elementary School and Waverly Elementary School.

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McKay said ATI started the event last year on a smaller scale, but scaled up this year with the addition of new sponsors.

“We wanted to bring in other businesses to make it a bigger production,” she said.

Lee Weber, president of ATI Specialty Alloys and Components, said last year the event involved packaging 20,000 meals, so this year was a big increase in output.

Weber said the purpose of the event was to help kids in poverty have school supplies and better nutrition. Kids can't succeed in school if they are hungry, he said, so the meals help them do better in school ... which in turn helps them live better lives. He said giving low income students this help creates a better community, which helps ATI, because it makes the community more attractive to potential employees. However, he said the company also helps because it has a moral obligation to do so.

“When we lift up the next generation it lifts us all. Most of us leaving here today will feel good about it," he said.

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Anthony Rimel covers education and crime in Benton County and weekend events across the Mid-Valley. He can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net or 541-812-6091.

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