When a Job Just Isn’t Enough

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The headlines keep reminding us that the economy has recovered. But these words ring hollow for the thousands of families in our community still struggling to get by.

Early on a brisk Saturday morning, volunteers from Epiphany Lutheran Church arrive at the parking lot of Ibraham Elementary School. In short order, a space inside the school is transformed, lined with tables and shelves stocked with produce, eggs, cereals, canned goods and more.

Joyce Kohfeldt, a lead volunteer for the School Pantry, warmly welcomes school families – mothers, fathers and grandparents with young children in tow. A young mother, head bowed low, moves forward in the line. Reaching Joyce, she stops to speak. “I almost didn’t come. It’s so hard letting anyone know what kind of shape my family is in.” Walking the woman inside, Joyce tries to reassure her: “It’s okay. We’re here to help.”

Later that morning, with the last family attended to, Joyce sits down to explain a few things. “Economic recovery…well, that’s just not something these families are experiencing,” she said. Joyce explains that while the majority of families coming to the School Pantry have jobs, typically it’s part-time work or two part-time jobs stitched together to try and make a whole. Regardless, the resulting income is not enough. Joyce recognizes the exhaustion in parents who have to make endless tough choices because the ends simply won’t meet. She has witnessed the smallest of things elicit great gratitude.

“Something about seeing a child clap and dance with joy around his father’s legs at the sight of fresh produce has a way of bringing things into perspective,” she said. “I’ll never truly know the burdens these families are carrying, but I know this: What we are doing here goes beyond providing assistance with groceries. Helping a parent provide their child with something that most of us take for granted is about dignity and it’s about community.”

A retired educator and school administrator and owner of IESS, a small business that provides resources for educators, Joyce’s abiding passion has always been helping to make sure children have what they need to learn and thrive. Several years ago, that passion, and yet another study casting North Carolina as among the worst in the nation for food insecurity, moved Joyce to reach out to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC.

Joyce attended a scheduled information session led by Daisy Rodriguez, Director of Childhood Hunger Programs, and left determined to engage others in her church’s congregation. Within two months, Epiphany Lutheran Church, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC and Ibraham Elementary were partnering to send children in need home with backpacks filled with food for the weekend. Since its inception, the partnership has grown to include the School Pantry, open two Saturdays a month during the school year and scheduled weekdays during summer.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable for a child to go hungry in our nation, in our state and in our community. Our kids are living their childhoods now. That leaves each of us with a question to ask ourselves: ‘What can I do today to be the difference for a hungry child…to be the difference for a hungry family…to be the difference in my community?’ That’s why I volunteer. That’s why I give. And that’s why I continue to challenge others to join me.”

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$1 provides 7 meals.

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#IbrahamElementarySchool #children #Forsyth #ForsythCounty #WinstonSalem #JoyceKohfeldt #families #childhunger #SchoolPantry #DaisyRodriguez

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