Eight local Options For Youth schools had collected more than 1,168 food items for the Victor Valley Rescue Mission as of Friday, officials said, with hopes to raise more by Dec. 15.


Linda Biggs, the center coordinator at the Hesperia Options for Youth, said the food drive began Oct. 24 after the manager at the thrift store next-door asked for help.


"They said their food pantry is getting emptied daily," said Biggs, who spearheaded the school drive. "The economy has been very difficult."


Ron Wilson, Victor Valley Rescue Mission director, said more than 3,000 families have signed up with the organization's food pantry program, but the mission can only give food to 500 families a month. The food pantry runs year round, he added.


"Options for Youth has been great," Wilson said. "They have been one of our stronger providers this year."


Some of the students at Options For Youth struggle themselves, Biggs said.


"I had one kid whose family is really struggling and he could only bring in one can," she said. "His dad is out of work. The student said even though times are tight, everybody can do something."


Senior Elizabeth Hardy, who brought in 50 cans of food, can relate.


"Someone in my family has gone to a food pantry a couple of times before and I just wanted to give back to the community," she said.


Autumn Arnold, a grade 10 student who wants to study nursing at Biola University, brought in sweet potatoes, gravy, corn and green beans to the Hesperia school.


"I don't volunteer as much as I like to, so this was an opportunity for me to help," Arnold said.


Biggs said Options will be collecting food until Dec. 15 at its local public charter schools, with four sites in Victorville, three in Hesperia and one in Apple Valley. Biggs said the public is invited to drop by any school to donate food. For more information, call


(760) 948-3636.


Vincent Phillips is a 10th-grade student at Options for Youth in Hesperia.