REIDSVILLE — Assembly lines buzz with excitement at the second annual Feed the Need packaging event and the spirit of helping seems to engulf the Community Baptist gymnasium.
Students, faculty and volunteers man their stations — scooping, weighing and sealing packages filled with pasta, dry vegetables and vitamin gold.
At Community Baptist Schools, it’s a Friday celebration, and smiles help fuel success as hard work yields 10,080 nutritious meals in more than 40 crates that temporarily reside on the Conquerors’ free-throwing line.
The fundraiser and service project is headed by The Champion Group — a leading expert in major fundraising events for schools, ministries and select non-profits that shows groups how to provide hunger relief in impoverished areas.
A majority of the meals will be shipped to the Appalachian region in eastern Kentucky, where the need for additional food sources continues to grow.
One of those areas is Harlan County in the southern Kentucky, long considered to be one of the poorest counties in the nation. Indeed, 82 percent of its 29,278 residents are eligible for programs designed for those who live at 130% below the poverty level.
Of the meals packaged, 1,500 will serve local citizens in need through the Salvation Army, Rockingham Hope and the Reidsville Outreach Center.
The meals are needed in Rockingham County, where residents suffer from a 15.7% food insecurity rate.
More than 14,000 residents don’t meet the USDA standards for access to food, according to 2017 numbers compiled by Feeding America, a research group.
In an area that faces an annual food budget shortfall of over $6.9 million, more than 4,200 of the county’s children are considered food insecure, according to latest figures compiled by the non-profit.
Community Baptist students were able to raise over $70,000 during the Feed the Need campaign, which went toward funding the event.
Proceeds will also help officials as they look to improve campus security and technology.
“It’s a fundraising effort, but it’s also teaching the values of being good citizens in our community,” said Community Baptist Pastor Randy Hester. “I love the fact that it’s allowing our kids to give back to the community. … It puts a good awareness and joy on serving and a joy of being generous and kind, while sharing the love that God has poured into our hearts.”
Coming home and the dual role
Friday’s packaging party was a homecoming of sorts for Bonnie Larson, who helped organize the Feed the Need event as The Champion Group’s southeastern consultant.
Larson, who returned to CBS last year and helped the lead the group in their first attempt to package 10,000 meals, served as CBS’ inaugural principal from 1972-1982.
She said she’s proud and pleased to see the school still places prime emphasis on serving others.
“It feels absolutely wonderful, it’s like coming home,” Larson said “They’ve done tremendous and the community has been wonderful in supporting and reaching out to the school.”
For Larson, serving others remains as a focal point, as she advocates for Feed the Need — an initiative that’s packages nearly 2 million meals in its five-year history.
It’s also central to the teachings of current faculty and staff, who value the Feed the Need as a dual-edged tool that provides for others and teaches students.
“”This is important to us, not just because we have the Baptist name at the end of community,” said Principal Gene Carwile, who called the event one of the most enjoyable days of the year.
Standing tall behind the bill of his Alabama Crimson Tide cap, the head administrator joined in on the action, snagging sealed packages in mid-air and boxing them for delivery earlier this week.
“”There is something about knowing that other people have it worse than we do and for all of us to pull together in a fun day,” Carwile said. “ … It’s just a true blessing to all of us knowing that we are doing something instead of asking for something.”
Giving back to others is a major component of Feed the Need, but for the Community Baptist community, so much is given back to them in return.
For teacher Billy McKinney, it’s an opportunity to help give his students a glimpse of what they can do to make a difference in the community.
“It creates a leadership (mentality) instead of an entitlement mentality,” said McKinney. “We want them to step out of their comfort zone and help. One of the things that I try to teach the kids is that when you see something that needs to be done, do it, if you can.”
Those teaching opportunities are a major part of Community Baptist’s approach to teaching youth.
“We are training the whole of the student,” said Pastor Hester. “Not just their head, but also their hearts and their hands. We want the whole of the student — their integrity, their character, their moral responsibilities and their responsibilities before God are all part of the education that we are really putting in here. We want them to be well academically trained but we also want their spiritual component, their civic component, their emotional component, their social component, their athletic component — it’s the whole of the student that we are developing and this contributes to that.”