On Thursday night area students turned out to Lowes Foods for the kick-off to the 18th annual Friends Feeding Friends program.
The theme throughout the night, where local students help with shopping for others who are in need, revolved around how the students were helping kids that might be sitting next to them in school and how they were heroes for coming out to volunteer to help the hungry.
Jill Borders, the program coordinator for the Yokefellow Food Pantry, was on-hand at the event. She said hunger affects one in three children. She said that hunger knows no season, but the need for food rises during the winter months, especially in November.
“I think that it’s great that kids are helping kids because they are helping their own,” said Borders.
Meadowview Middle School student and Girl Scout Troop 40725 Member Christina Conzone said it touched her heart to be able to help those less fortunate in the community.
“This makes me feel like I’m a part of something greater than myself,” said Conzone.
Her troop leader, Debbie Southern, said the girls started going to the store when they were just Brownies in kindergarten in order to sing and help sell bags of food for the hungry. She was proud to see them still helping in the community.
Austin Beasley, a senior at North Surry, said he was glad to be a part of the program that allows him to volunteer in the community. This was his first year participating in the program.
“It’s good to give back to the community,” said Beasley.
Randy Bowman, Lowes Foods store co-manager, has been heading up the program since 1999. He said General Mills donated $4,000 worth of food to the Friends Feeding Friends program this year. He said they also donated another $20,000 worth of food to be divided between five Lowes Foods stores.
“You do a great job every year and I can’t say enough or thank you enough for what you do,” Bowman said to those on hand to help.
Dr. Greg Little, superintendent of Mount Airy City Schools, said that November is his favorite month because he likes all of the things about Thanksgiving — turkey, corn pudding, football and most of all sitting around the table with his family sharing what each of them is most thankful for.
“To me that’s the highlight of my year. And, this year, around Thanksgiving you are going to be what people are thankful for. The work you are doing here tonight and what you will do throughout the holiday season is going to put food in people’s bellies, put food in their home and food on their table. That is such a tremendous gift. Thank you for being here and supporting our community and showing the world that Surry County is the best place to live,” said Little. “What you are doing here and throughout the year makes a huge difference in your community. My heart swells with pride to see all of the students here tonight.”
Mayor Deborah Cochran thanked all of the Mount Airy commissioners and the students for turning out for the event.
“Food is a basic need and this prolonged recession has accelerated the cost of groceries. Imagine if you are unemployed or underemployed. This is so important. Mount Airy has lost over 10,000 jobs in the last several years due to the loss of legacy industries moving off-shore. North Carolina is fifth in the nation for unemployment. This drive is necessary and worthy. There is no higher level of assistance than we can provide people than to meet their basic need of having food,” Cochran said.
Jennifer Stone, a representative for Surry County Schools, said that the demand for kids to receive free or reduced lunches has grown again this year.
“This is a prime time for people who need food. It’s awesome to see everyone out here today helping the children that are going to be in need,” Stone said.
Surry County Commissioner Paul Johnson thanked all of the students who turned out to help.
“It’s really sad that our nation is in the shape it’s in and we have to do things like we are doing, but on the other hand, we are glad to have people like you that come out and support this and will continue to support it,” Johnson said.
Chuck Harmon, of the Second Harvest Food Bank, thanked everyone for turning out to help.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve been in a pretty tough place. We’ve seen the number of people in need double. And, it’s been a tough job trying to get all of the food together to feed those people from Burlington to Boone. Surry County is one of those places that has been hard hit,” Harmon said. “You are the future leaders. You are the heroes. For a lot of folks, you are the reason that they are going to eat tomorrow night, Saturday night, Sunday night.”
After the opening ceremony concluded, students got busy moving food. They loaded the food into carts and others scanned the food while others bagged it up and took it out to the Second Harvest Food Bank truck outside.
Lowes Foods will be collecting food donations in all of their stores across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. These donations will be delivered to local food bank agencies in the areas in which they are collected.
Since 1995 Lowes Foods has collected more than 17 million pounds of food and this year Lowes Foods has a goal of raising one million pounds of food during the 2012 calendar year. Donation bins are located in each store for quick and easy drop off. In-store, customers may purchase already packed bags of non-perishable items most needed in the food banks or donate cash at the register in $1, $3 and $5 increments.
Friends Feeding Friends runs through Dec. 31.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.