the faces of asg
When A Simple Gesture (ASG) started a few months ago, our team here at Hunger and Health Coalition (HHC) thought that the canned foods would make the most impact. We were wrong. Canned foods can only last for so long, as we have seen. With each collection we are able to distribute more than ten thousand pounds of nonperishable items. That last forever, right? Wrong, again. Sadly, this only last a few days on our shelves.
Canned foods may only be able to last a few days, but passion, dedication and love can last us a lifetime here. We see it every two months and all the days in between, the passion and dedication volunteers bring to help make ASG not just a dream, but an ongoing reality.
For some volunteers, ASG is a great way to get involved and to help spread the word about food insecurity here in Boone. For others, like Michelle Jeanniton-Garret, ASG means much more.
Michelle is working on her Masters of Business Administration degree from Appalachian State with minors in psychology and advanced entrepreneurship. In her spare time, she volunteers not only with ASG on pick up days but at the HHC during the week. Back home, Michelle is heavily involved in local nonprofits that help to fight hunger in her community. She knew once she got to App State she would dive right in with HHC and ASG.
“I am passionate about volunteering and giving back. A Simple Gesture has taught me to be grateful for everything I have. I have enjoyed getting to know clients when I hand out food and being told how appreciative they are for the food they receive to feed themselves and their families. On sorting days, the coalition is filled with so much love.”
Love and dedication are not the only things that fill the hallways at the HHC on sorting days for ASG. Chatter spreads throughout each room as discussions are held on education and advocacy, an aspect that is instrumental for not only ASG but the HHC.
Not many know that Watauga County is the third poorest county in the state and that 1 in 4 children do not know where their next meal will come from. Educating community members on the reality of food insecurity can be challenging. Michelle believes that being apart of the solution is one way to help get people back on their feet.
“It is one thing to want to combat food insecurity but completely different to partake in activities such as ASG so that you can firsthand experience the change.”
Food insecurity has not always been just a discussion for Michelle, at some points in time it has been her reality. As a student pursuing her Master’s and two minors, food insecurity not only hit close to home for herself but with other students.
“As the semester begins to wind down there are times, I have run out of money on my meal plan and had no source of income, I was not sure how I would be able to get food. Additionally, my daughters, one who is still a student and their friends will also run out of meal plan money. If I am able to utilize the service for myself and my friends and cook meals, I feel passionately that I can find the time to volunteer and help others in my same situation.”
Food insecurity has many different faces. It can be the person at the coffee shop you always see, that guy you just walked by downtown, your neighbor or even a student pursuing her master’s who is wondering what she will do once her meal plan money is gone.
It is a reality that too many people in Watauga County are facing. One that Michelle and so many other countless volunteers have been helping to fight for so many months.
“ASG is filled with so many passionate employees and volunteers that are dedicated to helping combat hunger. While this is their focus, it is their genuine love and care for their clients. They remember their clients and when they see them walk through the doors, they ask how they are, how their family members are and look them in the eyes to make sure they are truly okay.”
It's true. As Executive Director Elizabeth Young likes to say "We are a warm bunch". Everyone who walks through the doors of the HHC matters, everyone is family here. Staff and volunteers alike know how grateful clients are recieving food and life sustaining medicine. They also know that everyone, on any given day, under any certain circumstances, with any decision, could also be food insecure. It is their mission, their passion and their motivation to ensure that no one walks out of the HHC wondering where their next meal will come from.
For our clients rock bottom can be all too familiar. There are obstacles that clients are facing that most would never even dream of. Michelle has had her fair share of adversity. Her darkest moments however, were met by light.
“I have gone through trials in my life but because of those that supported me and still do through my darkest moments I feel I can still push forward. If it wasn’t for those times when I personally came into the HHC questioning what I was doing, I would not be here today fighting to overcome my own obstacles while stepping back and realizing how grateful I needed to be to lend a hand to someone else. It is why I am grateful to be a part of the HHC and ASG family.”
Our work here at ASG is just beginning. We hear daily that people want to help but that they simply don’t have the time or the money and sometimes not even the energy. ASG allows you to be apart of the solution in the most simple way. Five pounds of food can help to feed someone incredible like Michelle, for an entire day. As the school semesters are dwindling down, the fear of where people’s next meal will come from is beginning to rise. Whether it is one pound, five or thirty, each pound makes a difference in the lives of the clients of the HHC.
ASG volunteer Michelle Jeanniton-Garrett on October pick up day.
Michelle helping to sort with friends and student volunteers from Appalachian State.
simple gestures, make big impacts