SUE YOUNG, REAL ESTATE AGENT
My grandparents always had a garden much too large for our small family, but it was planted, grown and harvested as much for the young widow next door with two small children, the older gentleman at the end of the street who was caring for his ailing wife, and for the renters who just moved to the neighborhood looking for work.
As the garden flourished, it became the grandchildren’s job to fill baskets with beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and fruit and to take them to anyone on the street who was in need. We placed the baskets by the front door without fanfare before making our way to the next home.
As my grandparents explained, this was a way to help others by giving of our abundance. Those baskets made their way back to Mama and Papa’s house sometimes with jams and jellies, homemade breads or pies and maybe a kind thank-you note.
My father was always self-employed, which meant that some weeks were leaner than others, but we never felt poor or deprived. I learned by example from those I loved the most — those with pure hearts and motives.
Since 2002, I’ve done my best to carry on the family legacy by actively volunteering with Shoals Area Association of Realtors (SAAR). One of our largest projects is partnering with Give A Kid A Chance, a non-profit in which we collect donations and provide new, brand-name athletic shoes for disadvantaged children for back to school. We committed to buy 260 pairs of shoes this year, but ultimately we were able to supply 309 pairs.
The drive helps build confidence in the kids. One little boy who received help from that organization for many years is now 18 years old and attending seminary college on a scholarship with plans to become a minister. Just recently, he was at our Distribution Day and spoke to the other children about how Give a Kid a Chance gave him that first sense of ambition to set goals. It helped plant the seed in his life.
On Distribution Day, the children and their parents are treated to a day filled with music, food, ice cream, clowns, puppet shows, games and an uplifting message. They pick up their shoes, along with new socks, T-shirts, a pair of jeans and backpacks filled with school supplies they’ll need for their particular grade. We make sure these families don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed.
We’ve also worked closely with homeless shelters to serve a barbecue with all the fixins; nursing homes to visit the residents during holidays; the Heart of Alabama, Save, Rescue, Adopt (HASRA) no-kill shelter; and the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, which provides disadvantaged children with a Christmas that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Our goal is to one day see the needs decrease and to see more empowered. But we’re not there yet. We want everyone to be cognizant that there are folks in our neighborhood who are suffering and, if we have more than enough, then we can share. There’s a place and a project for everyone.
All of these volunteer efforts work together to make our community stronger, more united, more harmonious. If we can give people a hand up — not a hand out — it can help these kids to do something great with their lives in the future.
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