In assembly line fashion, boxes are sorted, opened and emptied of their contents. Cans of applesauce are stacked on one table, while bags of beans grace another. In short order, all the food stuffs are sorted and ready for new packaging in the form of “presentations” for patrons waiting in their cars lined around the backside of the fairgrounds.
Initiated in the fall of 2009, the Dare to Care mobile food pantry is a collaborative effort between Henry County Public Schools (HCPS), Eminence Independent Schools (EIS), Henry County government and Dare to Care in an effort to provide an additional food source for families in Henry County. The food giveaway happens on the fourth Wednesday of each month.
“The county provides the location, Dare to Care provides the food, and we provide the organization and labor,” said Karen Wilson, coordinator of the HCPS Youth Services Center, who works closely with Renata Ingram of the HCPS Family Resource Center and Debbie Hartford, with the EIS Family Resource and Youth Services Center.
At the heart of the operation is student volunteers.
“We have always used students as volunteers. Our initial core group of students came from JROTC with Col. Fassio and Sgt. McClure. JROTC still provides cadets, but we also have branched out with other students - soccer, BETA, honor society, CEO, our own kids, etc.,” Wilson said. “Two years ago, we started using middle school students. That has been very successful. Parents and other adults are also welcome to volunteer and have in the past.”
For their time, some students receive community service credit for their organization, like BETA, while others just come to serve. Kiefer Bachmann a sixth-grader at Henry County Middle School, is in his first year of volunteering for the food band.
“I decided to do this to help out our community and just give back to people who have trouble affording food,” Bachmann said. “I really enjoy it. You can go out and meet people and help them have a great day. That’s what I try to do.”
The Rucker Rosell brothers, Tyler and David, are both ROTC cadets who choose to volunteer each month at the food bank. They can earn community service ribbons for their time, but both said they’d volunteer even without a tangible reward.
“It makes me feel good inside because we’re helping out the community and giving them what they need,” Tyler, a junior, said.
“They thank us and say have a good day and seem to appreciate what we are doing for them,” freshman David added.
Students interested in volunteering each month must be in good academic standing and be free of reported behavior issues. Middle and high school students who would like to volunteer at the Dare to Care mobile food pantry should see Wilson in the Youth Services Center.
“It would be good to have more people working it so we could pack the boxes faster. If we could pack faster, it would be easier to get the boxes out quicker and people wouldn’t have to wait so long to get their food,” Bachmann said. “I’d encourage other kids to get involved. It’s fun, you can do it. It helps the community and it feels really great to give back to people.”