There is a saying that goes, “If you see a need, fill it;” and that’s exactly what the Ashe County Sharing Center has done through a new partnership with Ashe Campus of Wilkes Community College (Ashe Campus-WCC).
The need: dozens of nontraditional college students, many with families, who have been laid off from factory jobs.
The solution: a food pantry on the campus to help them finish their degrees with one less burden hovering over their shoulders.
“We can help them ease that burden,” Kelly Vannoy, chairperson and volunteer for the Sharing Center, said. “We’re thankful that we can.”
With the help of a $2,500 donation from a generous, anonymous donor, the Sharing Center, has made a one-year commitment to provide food to a new food pantry at Ashe Campus-WCC.
If it’s successful, the food pantry will be run entirely by members of the student body at the Ashe Campus starting next year.
“We started this week,” Vannoy said. “We ordered about 800 prepackaged boxes of food to get started.”
Vannoy said the Sharing Center started out with boxes of food because they’re already assembled and ready to go, and they contain mostly nonperishable items that last longer.
“It’s an easy way to get started,” Vannoy said.
WCC-Ashe’s summer session started last week, which is why the Sharing Center opted to go ahead and start the program now as opposed to waiting until the fall.
“Hunger doesn’t wait,” Vannoy said. “So, we started passing those (boxes) out to the folks who need them.”
In the coming weeks, packages of frozen meat and eggs will also be available for those participating in the program.
“Right now, this is just for WCC students,” Vannoy said. “But for say, even staff members, if there’s someone who comes across hard times and needs help, this is there for them.”
Vannoy said WCC-Ashe also operates numerous satellite programs such as ESL classes, specialized training courses and GED programs in the community.
“We’re hoping the instructors might be able to take some of this food with those folks too, if they (instructors) run across a student who is having a hard time,” Vannoy said. “That way, they can access some food and we can access a lot more people in need.”
According to Michael Sexton, program facilitator at the Sharing Center, the program is the first of its kind in the 18 county area that Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest N.C. serves.
“There aren’t anymore programs within the community colleges,” Sexton said. “When we talked about this to Second Harvest, they said there are no other programs like this in the 18 county area.”
Both Vannoy and Sexton said they can see this being considered a pilot program for other community colleges, perhaps even for WCC’s Alleghany County campus.
If such a thing happens, however, the Sharing Center wouldn’t qualify as a partner as it only serves the needs of those living in Ashe County.
For more information on the program or to help donate time or money to the Sharing Center, visit them online at www.ashecountysharingcenter.com or contact Vannoy at 336-846-7019.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.