porch

PHOTO BY BEVERLY SNOWDEN

All it takes is just one can. One can of non-perishable food to feed a hungry child.

And with that approach, the volunteers who serve the organization, PORCH, are working to secure at least one can from every home or business porch in Hickory to help feed hungry children and their families. Collectively, the one can adds up — providing food on the kitchen shelves for dozens of community families.

In fact, PORCH, which stands for “People Offering Relief from Community Hunger,” a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, distributes a grocery bag filled with food items valued at $50 to at least 125 families every third Tuesday of each month, throughout the year. During the past year, PORCH distributed a combined food value of $75,000 to $100,000 to families with children who attend Hickory Public Schools.

The need for community assistance is growing, especially with the upcoming holiday season, according to Shannon Pleasant, co-president of PORCH. “Children will miss out on the school breakfast and lunch program during the holiday season, and this time of year can be very stressful for several of our school families. Through PORCH, we rely on neighbors feeding neighbors —to secure food provisions for the HPS families,” said Pleasant.

“This is how the process works: There are currently 50 neighborhood coordinators in Hickory, and we can always use more,” said Pleasant. “The coordinators forward a monthly reminder email to their neighbors and then pick up the food items left on home porches or steps (on the third Tuesday) —bringing the collection to our new storage location, the former Thrifty Lion shop, located at 2505 First Ave. SW, Hickory (next to the old Longview Elementary School in the Long View community), between 8 a.m. and noon. During this time, business and church groups also drop off their donations.

“Additional volunteers then sort and review the donated items before filling grocery bags designed to provide full meals —whether it’s spaghetti, peanut butter and jelly, or vegetables and rice. Breakfast items and snacks are also needed — making sure that children have nutrition to help them get through their learning days.

“The process is very simple for the families. There are no applications; they simply need to pick up a ‘food voucher’ from their child’s school. The school office, the teacher, the counselors — they all have access to the vouchers to assist families,” said Pleasant.

On the same third Tuesdays, the families start arriving at the PORCH facility in Long View between 5-6:30 p.m. to pick up their grocery bags, filled to the top.

“We’ve had great success with contributions to help students at Hickory High,” said Sallie Huckabee, co-president of PORCH. “If a teacher notices that a student needs a breakfast bar or snack to help ease the hunger while providing an improved opportunity for learning, then healthy snacks are available for this purpose. We love knowing that we are not only helping the students in their homes, but also in the classroom.

“Since 2012, when PORCH was first established in Hickory by Pope and Peggy Shuford, and Charles and Elaine Young, area businesses, corporations, and churches have stepped up to help with the monthly food drive. Numerous community partners have offered support — from the design of marketing signs to cleaning the new facility location,” said Huckabee.

“PORCH provides decorated bins and containers for any interested area organization that would like to partner with PORCH. There’s no cost to be a partner; simply put out the bins and remind employees or groups to make their donations of nonperishable items before the third Tuesday of each month,” said Shauna O’Brien, executive director of PORCH.

“We fill the grocery bags with an overflow of donations representing the food items including: jars of peanut butter and jelly, boxes of macaroni and cheese, canned meat, canned vegetables, canned beans, canned soup, cans of fruit, boxes of cereal and dried pasta, cans of pasta sauce, bags or boxes of rice, and a variety of miscellaneous items, such as crackers and treats. Food donations must have current dates — not expired dates,” said O’Brien.

In addition to food donations, PORCH accepts monetary donations from any organization or individual. PORCH is also accepting personal hygiene items such a tampons/sanitary pads, deodorant, toothpaste/toothbrushes, shampoos, etc. All donations are tax-deductible.

“We are thrilled to have PORCH serving the students and their families of Hickory Public Schools,” said Angela Simmons, HPS director of student services. “Without the monthly support from PORCH, especially with the given fact that donations are distributed later in the month when family funds have run low, we realize that many students now have food provisions to help them get through the day. Students cannot learn with an empty stomach. These grocery bags, distributed by PORCH, make all the difference for so many families across the city of Hickory.”

“This coming Tuesday, Nov. 19, is the next ‘third Tuesday of the month,’ for giving food or monetary donations for PORCH. With Thanksgiving coming up, this is the perfect time for giving,” said Pleasant.

All donations need to be dropped-off between 8 a.m. and noon, in time for the volunteers to start preparing the bags filled with meals for families, before the families arrive to pick up their grocery bags later that evening between 5-6:30 p.m.

“We can’t fix the hunger problem in our hometown,” said Pleasant, “but through PORCH, we are blessed to help address a vital need for families. With one can at a time, we CAN make a difference!”

To make a donation or offer to volunteer, email: hkyporch@charter.net

Needed food items:

» Jar of peanut butter

» Jar of jelly

» Boxes of macaroni & cheese

» Cans of meat (such as chicken, tuna, etc.)

» Cans of vegetables

» Cans of beans, can or dried

» Cans of soup

» Cans of fruit (mandarin oranges, peaches, and pineapple)

» Boxes of cereal or oatmeal

» Dried pasta

» Cans or jars (no glass) of pasta sauce

» Bags or boxes of rice

» Miscellaneous items such a breakfast bars, crackers, treats.

And personal hygiene items.

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