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Nat’l Philanthropy Day Awards: Rotary Interact

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - The local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals typically recognizes those who go above and beyond in the fundraising world with a special ceremony on National Philanthropy Day, which is Nov. 15. But, this is 2020.

WXOW is teaming up with the AFP Upper Mississippi Valley to help recognize this year's recipients.

We start with the 2020 Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy. This category recognizes individuals or a group of individuals who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the community through helping to generate direct financial support, development of charitable programs, and leadership in philanthropy.

This year, that honor goes to the La Crosse Area Rotary Interact clubs.

With membership in clubs at Aquinas, Central, Logan, Onalaska, West Salem and growing, Interact is Rotary International's service organization for people ages 14-18. Interact clubs are sponsored by individual Rotary clubs that provide support and guidance.

In the La Crosse Area, perhaps the most significant philanthropic efforts of Interact come in the form of the annual iFeed event.

The area's largest food drive is held each year in November at Logan High School. Though COVID had other plans for 2020, they adapted with a drive-thru raffle event.

"Still being able to have something similar to it with the way the world being the way it is today, we're still connecting the community together as much as possible," said Isaac Killilea, Vice President of Onalaska High School's Interact.

In years past, the fundraising effort has been significant. Take 2019 for example when the group collected nearly 35,000 food items for local pantries. Also at the event, teams pack more than 75,000 meals to send to hungry children overseas. It's a true collaboration that draws on a hint of school rivalry for some good-natured competition.

"The competition aspect makes you want to work even harder for some reason," said Central Interact member Hailey Constanti.

Not only does Interact organize this huge undertaking, they encourage other groups in the community, large or small, to feed their need to pitch in.

Since 1982, the local AFP chapter has covered parts of the tri-state area with membership mostly in La Crosse, Winona and Decorah, Iowa.

Watch News 19 every Sunday in November as we share the stories of this year's five honorees.

Dustin Luecke

Dustin Luecke anchors News 19 Daybreak weekday mornings.

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