theHeart spent a couple hours helping our friends at the Hunger and Health Coalition unload and sort donated food items.
Hunger and Health Coalition Volunteer Coordinator Seth Lejeune threw open the door of the small box truck, unveiling a sea of blue and white plastic grocery bags. Each one contained a dizzying array of aluminum cans, boxes of pasta, condiments, and other assorted food items.
This flood of food had been donated in partnership with the U.S. Postal Service. And it was the job of 20 volunteers from theHeart to spend two hours unloading what we could, removing expired items, and then sorting the remaining items into 15 different categories.
Beyond the support we provided, adults and youth had the unique opportunity to work side by side in service to our community. For volunteers like April and Becky, they connected with our church family in a new and exciting way.
Becky coordinated with her small group to spend their regular Wednesday evening meeting time volunteering. "It's really exciting to see our youth group here," she said. "I didn't know we had this many kids involved."
April, a former middle school teacher, had the same sparkle in her eyes as she sorted soups, salad dressing, and mac and cheese while joking with our youth group. "It's so fun to serve with and meet these amazing kids," she said. "I heard about the group but didn't realize it had gotten so big."
The energy level was electric, especially knowing that we were doing what we could to take on the overwhelming need for food security in the High Country.
Big Challenge, Small Sacrifice
According to County Health Rankings for 2018, more than 9,500 people in Watauga County battle food insecurity. That means roughly 18% of the total population do not have access to a reliable source of food during the year.
The Hunger and Health Coalition is a local organization offering assistance in the face of this sad reality for too many families.
"Our mission at the Hunger and Health Coalition is 'to be a resource for individuals and families within our community who are struggling to provide themselves with basic needs such as food,'" Seth said. "This food we're sorting today will go into our pantry, which is kind of like a grocery store where people who are in need can come and get some of the basics."
Volunteers from theHeart's youth group recognized this as a simple way for them to love others.
"It feels good to do a good deed like this," rising ninth-grader Luke said. "It's important that we give back to our community."
"I really like doing this kind of thing," Sophia said.
Sophia is a rising eighth-grader who will be taking classes at the Hunger and Health Coalition and Hospitality House during the summer to learn more about how these organizations work to support families. "My mom is really involved and she taught me the importance of helping others."
Coming Together to Serve
For people like April, the opportunity for her to put her love into action by sorting food was a perfect fit.
"I travel a lot so committing to things long-term is a bit of a challenge," She admitted. "But this was good for me. The two-hour time commitment with a specific, tangible task were easy to sign up for."
And yet one specific detail of this project was particularly motivating for April, "What made this a must was being able to serve with the youth."
Community Life Pastor Josh was grateful to see volunteers of all ages serving alongside each other, "It is such a joy watching our church family come together like this to support one shared goal: to put our love into action as we support efforts to help our neighbors in need."
Though we were not expected to sort all of the donated food in two short hours, Seth recognized our group for the significance of our efforts and dedication.
"I'm so impressed with the good work y'all did today," he said at the conclusion of our service time. "Really, we could not have done this without you and our other volunteers. Our thanks to theHeart."