November 07, 2002 11:00 pm

The children of Willow School did it again. For the seventh straight year, the youngsters from La Grande's east-side school, picked up trash downtown.

And, my, wasn't there a lot of it. The children last Friday retrieved 257 pounds of trash, including cigarette butts, paper, pieces of pipe, metal and even an automobile battery.

Youngsters fanned out with adults to cover a wide swath of the downtown area. Students in the second and third grades picked up trash along Jefferson Avenue near the railroad tracks. Fourth- and fifth-graders did their clean-up work along Adams and Washington avenues.

Even the very youngest students at Willow — the kindergartners and first-graders — got involved, but not on the busy downtown streets. They cleaned up the area around their school.

The annual Downtown Cleanup Day is a wonderful project. Events like that should be incorporated into the programs of every elementary school in the county. The reason is simple. One of the major missions of education is to teach children how to be good citizens.

Many youngsters at Willow School will turn out to be responsible, participating adult members of their community, thanks in part to the lesson they've learned during the annual cleanup days.

A giving opportunity

It's a simple matter of reaching onto the shelf and pulling down a box of cereal, a can of corn or peas or some other canned or dry non-perishable food item.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will be involved in their own citizenship project Saturday when they go door-to-door collecting food in the annual Scouting for Food drive.

The food collection comes at a particularly critical time of the year. The Salvation Army in Union County will be preparing its food baskets for needy families for Thanksgiving and the following month for Christmas. Food bank supplies have dwindled as more families have been coming to the Salvation Army for assistance, said Capt. Greg Moody.

Those residents of the county who are not provided a collection bag or contacted by a Scout Saturday can stop by the Salvation Army, 1114 Y Ave., later that morning or in the afternoon to drop off their contributions. Food items also will be accepted during business hours next week

The holiday season is a special time of year when people share what they have with family, friends and the less-fortunate. Area residents can get a jump-start on the joy of giving by participating in Saturday's food drive.