About the time most of their classmates were either just getting out of bed or hitting the pool on another hot August morning, about 15 members of the Cooper High School Student Council were already up and working.

The group spent three hours in the heat and sun on Aug. 4 at the Rose Park Senior Citizens Center dispensing food to those in the community who turned out for assistance.

The Food Bank of West Central Texas is at the Senior Citizens Center twice a month, and the CHS Student Council has now joined them three times in helping hand out food. On this morning – during a stretch of record-breaking heat in Abilene and the Big Country – those students were plenty busy loading fruits and vegetables into sacks and carrying bags of groceries to vehicles.

The food is donated by citizens of Abilene and the Big Country, and anyone over the age of 55 in need of food is eligible to receive canned goods, fruits and vegetables from the Food Bank.

First-year student council member Noelle Mathis said seeing how much fun her friends on the council had last year when serving the community is what convinced her she wanted to be part of the group.

“After seeing what my friends did last year, I thought this was the perfect fit for me,” the Cooper junior said. “Things are hard right now economically, and with the way prices continue to go up, it’s making life hard on everyone. This is one way we can serve this part of the community and talk to them and try to help brighten their day.”

Cooper’s Student Council takes on numerous community service projects throughout the school year, including an annual trip to Chinle, Arizona, to serve a community located in the center of the Navajo Nation.

“This is our wheelhouse; this is what we do,” said Cooper teacher Jimmy Pogue, who is in his 29th year as sponsor. “This is the third year we’ve partnered with the Food Bank, and while we’ve helped them, they’ve also been very generous in helping us with products and getting us packed for our trip to Chinle.”

Cooper teacher Morgan McLeod, the Student Council co-sponsor, said starting the year with a service project serves to bring the group closer together and gets them all on the same page going into the new year.

“We want to start the year with a strong group and make sure they feel welcome,” McLeod said. “We try to have a lot of opportunities before the year starts and being out here is just another way to get these kids together. It’s good for everyone involved to see what’s going on out here and to serve these people.”

Randy Wilkerson, the Director of Community Initiatives for the Food Bank of West Central Texas, said the help given by the Cooper students is invaluable to their efforts to provide food and meals to those in need.

“I just appreciate these kids giving up their time during the summer,” Wilkerson said. “it’s a tough job anytime, but it’s even harder when it’s this hot outside. Jimmy and his kids from Cooper are terrific; we couldn’t do this job without them.”