October 9, 2011
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Two Martinsville graduate students are taking the initiative to help residents of their community.
Beth Williams and April Wright, both of Martinsville, helped establish Stuffing the Hunger community service club, which will provide food for needy residents of the Henry County-Martinsville area.
The club was organized in August. It has partnered with Grace Network of Martinsville and Henry County to establish its first food drive, the Holiday Hunger Food Drive.
Stuffing the Hunger and Grace Network is collecting nonperishable items throughout October to help feed those in need during the upcoming holiday season, according to a news release.
Williams and Wright attend Averett University in Danville, where they are working on master’s degrees in business administration (MBA). One of the required projects that must be completed to receive the degree is to establish a community service club, Williams said.
They developed the club along with two other Averett students, Jeremy Smith of Danville and Wendy Clayborne of Greensboro, N.C., the release said.
The club is focusing exclusively on gathering food for the Martinsville and Henry County area, Williams said.
“We know how bad the economy here has been hurt,” she said.
Before organizing the club, “we did research on unemployment rates” and found that Martinsville has the highest rate in Virginia, so “we wanted to help meet the need, and it’s important to help those less fortunate,” Wright said.
The city’s unemployment rate in August was 19.4 percent, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.
When deciding with whom to partner, the students contacted David Dickerson, the transition coordinator for Grace Network. Wright said that Dickerson told them about how families line up outside the network’s door to receive food.
“Once we met with Grace Network, we saw that there was a greater need,” Williams said. “We also knew how valuable they (Grace Network) are to the area and understood how much they give back.”
Last year, Grace Network served more than 57,000 items of food to nearly 2,500 individuals, according to Dickerson.
Since Grace Network was created five years ago, it has received support from several partners. It is thankful for the new club’s help because it can add to the network’s ministry and because the needs of the area are growing, Dickerson said.
To help ensure that enough food items are collected, the club also partnered with American National Bank and the Blue Ridge Regional Library, Williams said.
Williams works with American National Bank, and when she told officials there about the project, they were interested in placing collection bins at their branches in Martinsville, Ridgeway and Collinsville, she said.
She also contacted the Blue Ridge Regional Library because the group thought the libraries would have a large amount of traffic each day, she said.
The Blue Ridge Regional Library agreed to set up collection bins at its Martinsville, Bassett, Collinsville and Ridgeway branches, she added.
The collection bins will be available from now through Oct. 28, the release said.
On Oct. 1, Stuffing the Hunger volunteers collected canned food and nonperishable items at Kroger at Liberty Fair Mall. During that food drive, volunteers collected more than 500 food items to donate to Grace Network, according to Williams.
On Oct. 8, the students collected items again at Kroger on Greensboro Road in Martinsville.
After the October drives, Williams said, the club is interested in doing drives on an annual basis.
This club “is really worthwhile for us,” she said.
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