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Able to Serve: Adults with special needs pack meals for hungry children

December 19, 2018
Meet a group of amazing volunteers behind the Back Pack Buddies program.

Many children start each day hungry -- and that’s why a program called Back Pack Buddies helps meet the need.

It takes a special group of volunteers to fill backpacks with love.

One of the volunteers is Karlin Stanley, who is always ready to help, especially when a hungry child depends on it.

Stanley works with other volunteers to pack food for hungry children. She is one of several adults with special disabilities who help Back Pack Buddies through a program called “Able to Serve.”

Organizers say 1 in 5 children in North Carolina are considered at risk of hunger. School programs offer free school breakfasts and lunches, but on weekends or holidays, those children often stay hungry.

Two years ago, the need was growing faster than the number of volunteers.

“We had to find another way to get the backpacks purchased, packed and delivered to the school,” said John Hodges, a volunteer from the Garner Mid-Day Rotary Club. “Able to Serve has done a spectacular job making that happen.”

Able to Serve is a day program for adults, and packing bags with food is just one way they help others.

“We are giving back to the community, and we are getting to show others that we can serve them, and it just feels really, really good,” Stanley said.

“We get to witness things everyday that I wish we could bottle and show everyone,” said Brenda Hammond, the Able to Serve program coordinator.

Hammond keeps the group on task. Helping others, she says, helps them feel safe and accepted.

“Everyone has a place to grow and shine, and I think that is what makes us feel so special here at Able to Serve,” she said.

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