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On mission for God, Sacks of Love

Posted: August 16, 2012 4:37 p.m.
Updated: August 17, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Approximately 10,000 students will start school Monday in Kershaw County. Of these, more than half will require financial assistance for school meals.

"We have seen our numbers increase in the past few years with the economic downturn, so we are about at 60 percent district wide. If you think of it, six out of 10 kids are receiving free or reduced meals in Kershaw County. There could be others who just haven’t applied. This is an area of concern," said Mary Anne Byrd, communications director for the Kershaw County School District.

Four years ago, Kathy Hall, coordinator of Sacks of Love, received an email from the United Way of Kershaw County. The email called her attention to the number of hungry and homeless children in Kershaw County.

Hall brought the issue to her church’s Sunday school class at First Baptist of Camden. Hall recalls a school nurse from her church telling her about a high school student who had not eaten for an entire day.

"That day was Easter and that child didn’t have anything (to eat). You think about what we had on our tables that wasn’t eaten. That wrapped it up for me. I knew we had to do something, I just knew we did," said Hall.

Hall was spurred by her faith to action and acknowledges it as her main motivation.

"It’s what Jesus told us. That’s really what we’re doing, trying to make that difference. We just want to glorify God in what we are doing," said Hall.

Sacks of Love was created in 2009 to provide supplemental weekend meals for students in need. The students are identified by teachers and guidance counselors. Hall coordinated with local churches, community organizations, KCSD and the district’s coordinator of nutritional services to apply the program throughout Kershaw County. Volunteers pack and deliver food sacks to students in all 20 KCSD schools. Sacks are provided every weekend during the academic year.

"People might not realize that hunger does affect all ages, not only the little ones but there are high school students that appreciate this and look forward to that bag every week … hunger affects all of our learners. We know that a hungry child has a hard time learning and will have a hard time keeping their mind focused on what’s going on in the classroom," said Byrd.

Ginger Catoe, principal of Doby’s Mill Elementary School notes the difference that the Sacks of Love program has had at her school.

"Our free and reduced rate is not as high as other schools but its teetering at almost 50 percent. Sometimes the two meals we feed them during the day are the two meals they get during the day. The Sacks of Love program is a great program to provide them with some resources on the weekends," said Catoe.

Coke Goodwin, former principal of Camden High School, packs food sacks with his wife at their church, Lyttleton Street United Methodist.

"Last year, I believe we provided for 27 students food for the weekends. It’s not home cooking or anything, but it is something that will keep a child from being hungry. The worst thing is for a child to go a day or two every weekend hungry," said Goodwin.

It takes Goodwin around an hour each week to pack the food sacks.

"If you work in pairs it takes about an hour to pack our 27 bags. An hour’s time is not that much to give … If we read what Jesus says we ought to do, feed the hungry is one of those things we should do," said Goodwin.

With the start of the 2012 school year, Sacks of Love is anticipating the possibility of higher numbers of students who will need assistance.

"We started off the beginning of the year around 250 or so but over time the numbers went up and by the end of that year we had 364," said Hall, referring to past years.

During the 2011-2012 school year, that number rose to 482 students.

"The churches are starting to struggle a bit because the numbers are so high. We’ve got one school with more than 60 kids and there was just one church handling that one -- so we’d really like to get more churches so they can partner. If people partnered there’d be less a strain on any one," said Hall.

Last year, Sacks of Love was able to provide the churches free milk for the sacks.

"Now the funding isn’t there as much because we used it last year for that. We’re hoping to get some more donations so that we can provide the milk free to these churches who are buying the food," said Hall.

According to Hall, helping can be as simple as forgoing one fast food meal.

"I have a fast food bag and everywhere I go (to make presentations) I take that with me and start off asking -- how many of you eat fast food? Everybody’s hand always goes up. Then I ask, how many of you go more than once a week? You get many hands going up. Did you know you could take the cost of one meal and feed a child for an entire weekend? That’s one thing that people can do -- give up one fast food meal a week and they can feed a child that weekend," said Hall.

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