Volunteers have the power to make a real impact in their communities. Sometimes, the smallest gesture can cause the grandest effect. Sun City residents Don and Connie Smith know this and believe in helping wherever they can and however they can. While on a trip to Don’s hometown of Peterborough, New Hampshire, Don and Connie took the opportunity to make a difference for 175 food-insecure children through the use of a jar of peanut butter.
Childhood food insecurity occurs when children regularly receive insufficient food; in many cases missing meals entirely. After a while, these children can experience “fear of hunger” that affects their behavior as much as physical hunger affects their bodies. COVID-19 caused a spike in food insecurity nationwide. Most communities are feeling the effects – in Tampa Bay alone, the number of food insecure individuals and families has doubled to 1.3 million. Don’s hometown of Peterborough is no different.
Whenever Don returns to Peterborough, he attends Sunday service at his “home church.” During a sermon one Sunday, the pastor preached, “No matter where we are, we are all community. We need to do things that can benefit others less fortunate than us.” He went on to announce the collection of “peanut butter money.” The money goes to purchasing peanut butter for a program named End 68 Hours of Hunger. Nationally, the program provides two breakfasts, two lunches, and three dinners for a child. In the area surrounding Peterborough, 9 towns feed into schools that benefit from this program. Locally, they bag up healthy snacks and food every Friday to send home with the children. Once a month, the bags include a jar of locally sourced peanut butter.
After hearing about the program, Don knew he and his wife needed to get involved. After church, Don called the program coordinator to learn more, “My plan was to have Connie and I work on this project and raise $2,000.” Within 2 days, Don and Connie reached $1,700. They surpassed their goal 2 weeks later, reaching $3,600. “People have really stepped up to the plate. One donor said to me, ‘Thank you for including me, I’m sorry I can only give $80.’ They get it. We all know a kid is a kid is a kid, no matter where they are.”
This is not the first time Don and Connie have gone above and beyond for their community. In March, the couple spread joy and hope through Sun City Center, Florida (link to story) with their gift of tomatoes bought from a local farm. Jackie Potts, Don and Connie’s neighbor, described Don as a genuinely giving person, “Don is like that, he wants to always be doing something to help the next person.” Don explained that what drives him is the effect a gift can have. “My goal is that when these children become adults, they’ll pay it forward and help others less fortunate.”
Don and Connie know from experience that volunteering is powerful. Something seemingly small can help make strides in fixing big problems facing communities today. Beyond the positive impact for those being helped, volunteering helps those who serve. Serving others can increase social interaction, improve physical health, increase happiness, and decrease the effects of loneliness, all while making a difference in the community. It does not take a sweeping, grand gesture to create positive change. Sometimes, all it takes is a jar of peanut butter.
Help yourself while helping others – join Seniors in Service to make a meaningful difference like Don and Connie! Visit: www.seniorsinservice.org/volunteer-opportunities to learn how.