Hunger doesn’t take the weekend off

Twins raise more than $7,000 for backpack program

Auther: Bill Poteat | The Gaston Gazette

This was supposed to be a feel-good, heart-warming, “maybe the world ain’t such a bad place after all” type of column.
And it will be.

But first, a bit of bad news.

Gaston County’s Backpack Weekend Food Program has canceled its autumn fundraising gala due to increasing concerns about the rising COVID-19 infection rate.

Even though the event, “Dining Al Fresco” was to be held outdoors, Executive Director Dallas Butler said the organization had little choice but to err on the side of caution and safety.

“We feel this decision was based on timely, factual information, and the utmost concern for the safety and well-being of our community,” Butler said.

“And,” she added, “because COVID-19 is highly likely to remain a concern well beyond the Sept. 25 date, delaying ‘Dining Al Fresco’ was not an option.”

So, there’s the bad news. Let’s press on with the good.

And the good, in this instance, is wrapped up in two small packages — twin sisters Chloe and Caitlyn Robinson, fifth graders at Mount Holly’s Ida Rankin Elementary School.

These two girls, who are as intelligent and articulate as they are charming, raised more than $7,000 this summer to go toward the Backpack Weekend Food Program.

In way of perspective, $7,000 is enough to feed 20 Backpack students for the entire school year.

Can I get a “Wow!” here?

Although the twins had raised money for church missions before, they had never tackled an effort quite so big as this one.

Their motivation?

A desire to serve on Ida Rankin’s safety patrol.

As the twins explained, they’ve looked forward to being on the school’s safety patrol since they were in kindergarten.

And who wouldn’t?

Members of the safety patrol get to help with directing traffic at the school, opening car doors for their fellow students, and holding up signs reminding parents of where they need to be in line.

Safety patrol members also help out around the school, performing various volunteer duties, including lending a hand with the annual Fall Carnival.

And, perhaps best of all, they get to wear special green belts that signify their positions of responsibility.

To be eligible for membership on the safety patrol, however, requires a service project of some type.

Bingo, the time was right!

Susan Swasham, a neighbor of the twins and a member of Mount Holly First United Methodist Church, suggested raising funds for Backpack because the church is one of the program’s sponsoring organizations.

“We liked the idea of helping kids who need food on the weekends,” said Caitlyn.

“And,” added Chloe, “it gave us a chance to remind ourselves and others that not everyone is as fortunate as we are.”

The twins decided to raise funds through various methods.

First, they enlisted the support of their grandmother, Carolyn Helms-Sears, a partner at L&E Properties in Mount Holly, and her business partner, Willie Hermes. Broker Michelle Jonas also pitched in to help.

The realty firm got its entire staff as well as clients involved.

Second, under the watchful supervisor of mom Mandy Robinson, the girls made direct solicitations of Mount Holly businesses.

“These girls have always had a big heart for missions and for helping other people,” said Mandy. “And they are so positive that they get a lot of positive response in return.”

Finally, the twins enlisted the aid of their father, Brian Robinson, in preparing barbecue dinners which were available on a donation-only basis.

According to the twins, the effort was mighty labor intensive and included making a special rub to go on the Boston butts, cooking those butts for more than 14 hours on their dad’s grill, and then removing the fat and pulling the pork into barbecue-size pieces.

And how does grandmother feel about the efforts of her granddaughters?

“They are wonderful girls,” Helms-Sears replied. “Just wonderful. They love Jesus, and they love each other. I am so proud of them.”

Equally proud is Butler.

“These girls are so inspiring in what they have done,” she said. “I hope other folks will see this example and consider doing something like it.”

The aim of the Backpack Weekend Food Program is to provide healthy, non-perishable meals to nearly 1,000 Gaston County students who might otherwise go hungry on the weekend when school breakfast and lunch are not available.

More information about the Backpack program may be obtained at www.bwfpgc.com or by calling 704-689-3363.

Bill Poteat may be reached by calling 704-869-1855 or at [email protected].