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Children collect coins to purchase 15,000 pounds of food for WOCC

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Isaac Hill, Lucy Sherburne, Eli Hill, Avery Hall look through boxes of cereal and other breakfast foods.

When Kheresa Harmon, children's minister at First Baptist Church, Forest City began to search ways the children in her program could "help others at home" she saw a Facebook post about the Washburn Outreach Community Center (WOCC) and its food pantry program.

Although Kheresa said she hadn't heard of the Washburn food pantry until then, she was eager to learn more. She contacted director Anita Behrns and inquired how her children could help people in Rutherford County.

Behrns said she explained the food distribution program that occurs each Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning at the center and the cost of the food that is given away free to qualifying clients.

WOCC pays 18 cents per pound of food that is purchased through the Second Harvest Food Bank in Charlotte, she explained. Funding comes from donations, grants and the proceeds from the thrift store.

After sharing the information, Kheresa said she began to talk to others at First Baptist, including Senior Pastor Dr. Garin Hill.

Kheresa and children came up with the idea for a Coin Collection Drive that was coordinated through the Sunday School classes at First Baptist in June and July.

The 15 pre-schoolers and children up to age 12 took collection jars to the Sunday School classes and at the end of the coin collection drive $617 had been collected.

Behrns said she was pleasantly surprised and happy at the amount of coins collected.

During the coin collection project, Kheresa said she also taught her children about the food insecurities in Rutherford County and the state. One in five children in Rutherford is food insecure.

With that information, the children were even more committed to collecting coins.

The children knew with the coins collected they were able to purchase at least 15,000 pounds of food and more from Second Harvest Food.

They had no idea what that much food looked liked.

"So they were invited to come and see the food when it was time for the food truck," Behrns said.

Last Monday afternoon, as the Second Harvest mobile food truck arrived at WOCC, standing by were Kheresa, Dr. Hill, children and some youth and parents.

They watched as large hardwood crates were unloaded in the newly air-conditioned warehouse. The Rutherford County Endowment Foundation awarded WOCC a grant to install air and heat.

Inside the cardboard crates were breakfast items, snack foods, cooking oil, ready-to-cook mac 'n cheese and other items.

Crates of milk, potatoes, chicken and watermelon were also unloaded.

The children made an assembly line to move dozens of mike crates to the refrigerator and helped box frozen chicken for the freezer the would be distributed to the clients the following weekend.

Children were reminded everyone does not have milk at home but with the money they raised, now more children and families would have milk.

As pallets of potatoes were unloaded, they were told the food insecure children could have mashed potatoes -- a favorite of some of the First Baptist children.

After the food was delivered, Behrns instructed the children on packing food boxes for distribution.

Dr. Hill commended WOCC's Behrns and the volunteers for the work at the center and Kheresa for her work in coordinating the efforts at the church

He said he was not surprised at the success of the coin collection.

"She is a full fledged minister," he said of Kheresa. "She is so creative to get the children involved."

The church also participated in the Welcome Table at First Baptist Church in Rutherfordton, they also have a food pantry for those in emergency situations.

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