Surry Community College’s Creating Successful Learners (CSL) participants who helped stuff food bags for the Friends Feeding Friends program at Lowes Foods Tuesday can be distilled into one single concept.
“Their heart only beats in one direction,” said CSL Teacher Angie Lievsay. “That’s love. It’s an honor to work with these kids. They only know how to give.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Lowes Perishable Department Co-manager Randy Bowman, who marks his 15th year with the local effort this year. He said the program is part of the tradition of grocery stores giving back to the communities they serve. Bowman said this is the 19th year of the food drive has been held corporately.
“All the schools I have been talking with who are participating are telling me they are doing well,” said Bowman. He explained that the company will once again have Campbell’s Labels for Education for winning schools who bring in the most pounds of food for the program.
Bowman said schools earn points which can be redeemed for arts, athletics, and academics merchandise and supplies by participating in the effort. He said first place (in the national contest) is 89,000 Campbell’s Labels for Education, second is 65,000 labels, third is 45,000 labels and 30,000 labels go to those schools finishing in fourth through tenth place. Ten prizes will be given out nationally.
“The food bag program is going extremely well. We’re selling $6 and $9 bags which are available for customers in the center aisle of the store. Customers may purchase the bags and they are then donated ( to YokeFellow Ministries),” said Bowman. “We’ve had the Girl Scouts and the Surry County Aktion group continue to help us by putting bags together in the store.” He estimated the drive has collected 1,900 pounds of food in the shopping bags sold. Bowman also said North Surry High School’s drive has been completed with 1,300 pounds collected.
Bowman said the Surry Community group is known for its community help projects. He said this week marks the fifth time groups have come in to assemble more bags for the drive with each effort assembling from 125 to 150 bags.
“Their help is a blessing,” said Bowman. “They enjoy this. It gives them a chance to give back and they are great kids. Our customers from Mount Airy and Surry County have been great. They really have adopted this program every year. I’ve seen customers come in and pick up a bag on every trip. It’s awesome how the city and county have come together.”
CSL Teacher Legh Beal said the program has 38 students and has a tradition of partnering with businesses and groups. She said coordinators like to rotate participants in service projects to allow as many a chance to participate as they can.
The program is described as a collaborative vocational training project between the business community organized to address the employment needs of developmental needs participants ages 14 to 21 years and adults 21 years and older. The program’s goals include helping participants transition into independent life and vocational skills through relevant training and subsidized employment opportunities. Participants are taught functional math and literacy, computer skills, how to advocate for themselves and how to access community resources.
“We have all different learning levels in this program,” said Beal. “Many graduate and go on to get their Graduate Record Examinations. They love helping and they take ownership in their community. It’s a heartwarming experience to see and we have a heartwarming group of students.”
Lievsay said the idea for community service projects came from the students themselves after coordinators found out they wanted to give back.
“The fact they get to go to college is huge,” said Livesay. “It’s the next step for them to get the confidence to go on. We’ve seen students go from not reading to reading. We’ve seen huge growth and that’s what this is all about. Our program is structured so we can give them time to get it and that’s a blessing. This program is about what’s important in this world.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.