Franklin Elementary School councilor Melissa Hart has been running a program that sends food home with children in need for the past eight years. Hart recently accepted the largest individual monetary contribution in the program’s history, and the donation came from second-grader Addison Southern.
Hart said she and two other staff members started the program eight years ago. In short, Hart collects food and monetary contributions in order to fill backpacks with “kid-friendly” food, sending a bag home on the weekends with students who have been identified as needing a helping hand.
When Hart and company started the program they were helping 25 Franklin students. This past school year the program, entitled the Hunger Ends Backpack Program, sent food home with 78 children on a weekly basis.
Hart said that while there are other programs that provide children in need with food, running her own program allows for flexibility and places no limits on the number of children she can help. Every Friday Hart hand-delivers the bags she packed to students.
Hart said that her “more intimate relationships with parents” as a school counselor makea it easy to identify children with families who may be having a hard time putting food on the table. Hart also said that input from teachers plays an important role in identifying families that could use the help.
“It doesn’t take a caring teacher very long to recognize which children are coming to school hungry,” commented Hart.
Hart said she has relied heavily upon the donations of community groups and area churches, highlighting Calvary Baptist Church in Mount Airy as a key supporter of the program. Hart also said that most other elementary schools throughout the Surry County School system have a similar program, but added that Franklin’s is the largest.
While organizations such as Calvary Baptist make large contributions to the food program, Hart said that a $270.33 donation from Addison Southern is the largest individual donation the program has seen.
According to Hart, Addison has been collecting change over the course of the past year-and-a-half. Hart said Addison started out collecting spare change with her father. However, her endeavor grew to a point in which she was actively seeking contributions from family members. Addison even put a donation jar at her grandmother’s tanning salon in Mount Airy.
“Addison is a big-hearted child,” said Hart, explaining that Addison had become curious about the bags of food being delivered to fellow students on Fridays. When his child inquired, Hart said that Addison’s father explained the program to the then-kindergarten student. Addison went to work, immediately setting up a jar for spare change.
“I expect Addison to do amazing things in life,” exclaimed Hart. “She shows leadership qualities not often found in children her age.”
Andy Winemiller is a staff writer at the Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698 or [email protected]