They are painting flowers. They are painting their favorite foods. They are painting trees and peace symbols and mandalas and cherry blossoms.
The Rockingham County Middle School cafeteria is surprisingly quiet as about 60 children from Students of Success (SOS) concentrate on painting pottery bowls. SOS Coordinator Mary Martin has invited these kids here to help paint bowls for Second Harvest’s annual Empty Bowls. “We are in the business of giving back,” she explains.
Mary set a goal for the children of producing 100 bowls for Second Harvest; by the end of the evening they had made over 140.
“We want to help these children become the leaders that they are,” says Lynn Flowers, Program Coordinator for SOS. “We talked to them about food insecurity before coming, and they know why we are here. They know the needs in their community. In fact, when we have volunteered the local pantry, some of the children helping out said ‘Oh, my family has come here before.’ Some of them had come to serve; some of them had come because they were in need.”
It is that very spirit—the spirit of a community where we get help when we need it and give help when we can—that fuels the work of Second Harvest across Northwest North Carolina. So often when we visit our on-the-ground partner agencies we learn that the lines between those who are giving and those who are receiving are blurred.
Students of Success is an after school mentoring and prevention program for middle school students held at Reidsville Middle School, Rockingham County Middle School and Western Rockingham Middle School. These are schools and communities that are familiar with the hardships of hunger. In Rockingham County, over a quarter (25.8%) of children are food insecure, as the county struggles with the hardships of poverty that too often grips rural and small town America.
Second Harvest has responded to this need by working with a strong partner network of 22 local partner programs, from school backpack programs to community meals sites to local pantries. These partners work tirelessly to put food on the tables of Rockingham families, and also are carefully looking at the root causes of hunger and poverty. In Rockingham County, nearly 83% of families seeking food assistance report that they have had to choose between paying utility bills and buying food; 89% have had to choose between healthcare and grocery shopping.
While these hardships are real and known in these communities, they do not dampen the enthusiasm of these kids mixing glazes and dipping brushes at Rockingham Middle. The SOS kids are aware that what they create today will not go home with them: instead, these bowls will become a part of the 2018 Empty Bowls selection.
They are a reminder to us all that it is through giving that we gain the most.
From 60 children painting bowls, to the nearly 70 community food drives organized by schools and local businesses on our behalf, to the ongoing, compassionate support of our #BeLikeJoyce match campaign, this Thanksgiving we are #thankFULL to be bear witness to the great generosity and kindness of our communities.
Thank you each for joining us in this journey of compassion and filling our bowls. Together, we are #feedingcommunity.