Troutman Elementary students will help feed hungry families in Iredell County this year. The students donated about 5,577 canned foods to Christian Mission in Mooresville during the “Can Mr. Mills” food drive. Pictured are Assistant Principal Brian Mills and Principal Kimberly Cressman.


Troutman Elementary, well known for its schoolwide participation and fundraising efforts with Jump Rope for Heart, started a new tradition of giving this year.

On November 4, the school kicked off a canned food drive, but school officials added a twist to motivate students.

“The whole idea was to ‘can’ me. I’m new to the school. They were hoping to get enough cans to can me out of the office,” explained Assistant Principal Brian Mills.

The class that collected the most cans would receive a pizza party. Incentives were also given to students by grade level and to those who served as class leaders.

As the challenge progressed, Mills shared pictures with the staff and students as an incentive to keep the students engaged and involved.

The canned food drive lasted three weeks and ended on Friday. The 640 students, with the help of their parents, brought in a total of 5,577 canned food items. 

“The students were extremely excited this morning. They wanted to know how many did we get … and asked who is leading,” Mills said.

The overall winner was fifth-grade teacher Heather Braswell’s class. Her students collected about 568 cans.

“We’ve had canned food drives in the past, but we’ve never had anything like this before,” explained Principal Kimberly Cressman.

“Christian Mission asked if the school could help with a canned food drive and that’s how it started. Then it turned into ‘let’s can the assistant principal’ and the kids ran with it,” she recalled. 

Cressman said Mills has a great sense of humor and has connected with students. He tells the students a joke every day, so they were eager to participate, she added.

This proved to be true when students started arriving to school with their backpacks weighed down by canned goods. Soon they were hauling in grocery bags and cardboard flats packed with nonperishable items. 

Troutman Elementary students understand the nature of giving and the impact it can have on the community, Cressman said.

Some students donated food from their family’s kitchen pantries while others made a special trip to the grocery store to buy food for others. 

“I think more than anything (it teaches them) the power of giving back is important, regardless of your home life or family life. Everyone was able to donate something,” Cressman said.