These four women didn't turn away when they discovered kids who were sick, hungry, craving an education or so poor they didn't have clothes. Instead, they each found a way to give back.
Peggy Canada, 72, St. Petersburg, Florida
The Charity: Pack-a-Sack
Mission: Feeding chronically hungry schoolchildren
Peggy Canada, a retired widow living in St. Petersburg, says she was “just coasting along, living a good life” seven years ago when she read about a Catholic church in Oklahoma City that provided food for hungry kids to take home over the weekend. “I thought, I should look into that,” she says.
What Peggy discovered was an alarming rate of child hunger in her own city: Up to 94 percent of the kids in the St. Petersburg public schools qualified for free or reduced-cost lunches under a federal assistance program. “I belong to the women’s organization at my Methodist church,” she says, “and I thought, I bet we could help 20 or 30 kids in town.”
Peggy reached out to a nearby elementary school in fall 2007, offering to send home weekend snacks on Friday afternoons for children the school staff had identified as critically, chronically hungry—“kids who were rushing the food lines, for instance, some of whom were homeless,” Peggy says.
MAKING IT A REALITY
That first week, Peggy served 20 children, but it quickly became clear to her that she could do even more; by spring of the following year, 80 of the 600 pupils at the school were receiving snack sacks—plastic bags filled with nutritious food such as peanut butter, milk, applesauce and granola bars.
“At the beginning, there were just three of us going around to stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club,” Peggy says. “Now I’ve found a Tampa vendor with great prices that delivers and unloads the food.”
TAKING THINGS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Pack-a-Sack, which works under the umbrella of the United Methodist Women, helps 558 students in four St. Petersburg elementary schools during the school year, plus more than 200 in the summer.
Today, Peggy is still involved in fund-raising, buying food, negotiating with vendors and every other aspect of the organization.
“I’m passionate about it. Absolutely passionate,” she says. “I never realized there were so many children we pass in our daily lives who are hungry.”