Hello, HTP readers. My name is Nina, and like many of you, I work full time in a demanding career. I get caught up in being spread so thin that I forget there are others out there who have it much worse. My stressful work week ends every Friday, but so many people carry their stress constantly. The most vulnerable of these people is children.
In Greensboro, NC, children at Jackson Middle School experience countless stressors: poverty, gang related violence, difficult access to school funding, and the normal challenges of adolescence. The worst, and most fixable of their stressors, is hunger: the majority of students at Jackson Middle School receive free or reduced lunch during the week because their families are unable to provide daily lunches for them. This means that when the school doors close on Friday, these children go home to bare cupboards.
Out of the Garden’s Operation Backpack program is trying to fix this problem. OOTG was started by Don and Kristy Milholin, two people who felt compelled to make a change in their community. As one of four children of a single mother, Kristy experienced hunger throughout her childhood. In an effort to break the cycle of poverty and hunger, she and her husband began bagging donated food at their kitchen table and taking it to local schools. The program is now feeding over 900 families in Guilford County. This video will give you an idea of the incredible service this program provides to hungry families. You will see that these families are grateful, gracious, and empowered.
At Jackson Middle, Operation Backpack currently provides seventy-five children with backpacks full of food for the weekend. Families are given enough food for two dinners, breakfasts, and snacks. At a recent donation event, Don shared with me that these backpacks mean kids won’t be eating pieced together “meals” over the weekend when their parents cannot afford food. He shared that some of these “meals” are things like ketchup and crackers. Sometimes there are no “meals” to be had. As sad as this is, it gets worse: there are over ninety kids on the program’s waitlist!
Our goal is to get every single kid off the wait list and into the program, should their family need assistance.
There are so many ways to help these children. We are urging the Greensboro community to donate non-perishables to OOTG. We are requesting financial donations from those who are able to contribute. Using financial donations, OOTG can buy food for kids and their families, and manage their overhead costs (storage, distribution costs, bags, etc.).
We have set up this fundraising page to collect donations: http://www.gofundme.com/1gynsc. Our initial goal is $1,000.00, and we hope to reach it by December 31 – we only have one more day to reach our goal! We are almost half way there, so if we can break it, all the better. These kids do not deserve this burden, and we are so capable of lightening their load!
This is a time of year when we are called to look outside ourselves and pull up those who are less fortunate. This is an opportunity to feel empowered and to change lives, and all it takes is a few bucks. I know you are busy, and I know you have your own obligations, but please, please consider donating to this important cause. Maybe a small portion of your gift budget could go towards this program? Perhaps you could forgo a Peppermint Mocha and funnel those dollars to this cause? Whether it is $5, $10, or maybe even more, your donation will support a group that so deserves help.
Readers local to the Triad Area: please post in the comments if you are interested in donating canned goods! We have several drop sites throughout Greensboro, and are happy to put you in touch with OOTG to volunteer in the warehouse!
Have you done any volunteering this holiday season? I’ve made a few monetary donations but would love to get out there and do more…