Photos by Rome City Schools
East Central Elementary faculty and staff have turned their building into a hub for not only providing a quality education for the students they serve, but also extending their reach to help families in their community. A huge part of that effort has been implemented in the form of the We Care Service Center which collects and stores extra food from the school cafeteria; receives donations of gently-used clothing and school supplies for families in need; connects families to resources in the community and more.
Helping Hands Ending Hunger Inc. and Carlotta (Carla) L. Harward who serves as CEO for this organization have been instrumental in East Central’s mission to provide qualifying families with much needed food items. Helping Hands Ending Hunger is tasked with walking schools through the process of collecting school cafeteria meals that would normally be thrown away and staying within the legal guidelines set by state law.
Recently, Faith Cole, a second grade educator who also spearheaded the We Care Service Center’s food program with her colleagues, was asked by Harward to serve on the Executive Board for Helping Hands Ending Hunger Inc. Since its inception, East Central’s outreach program has done so well that the initial program started in Trion, Ga. asked for Cole’s input in tailoring the organization’s ability to reach more families in Georgia.
“I can’t begin to express how grateful East Central is for Ms. Harward and her staff for the knowledge and guidance they have offered us while starting our We Care Service Center,” said Cole “When I saw the email from Ms. Harward asking me to join their executive board, I told her I would absolutely serve with them. I was so excited because I have never been asked to serve on an executive board before.”
Cole cites the success of their start up as the catalyst for her invitation to join the fight to end hunger in schools. “We have a lot of excitement about the We Care Service Center here at our school. The support of our faculty and especially our second grade teachers is awesome. And I cannot forget to mention the help from our community partners and our East Central families. They are so great at helping us to see our mission through
and make our goals a reality. Our collections are strong every week and I think it comes from the excitement from Rome City Schools about our program.”
Part of Cole’s responsibilities while serving on the board will be to develop ways to push programs like the We Care Service Center out to other schools in the state. Helping Hands Ending Hunger is already working in approximately seven Georgia counties, and their goal is to make sure every child has a chance to have a healthy meal outside the walls of the schools.
“We have just added a huge amount of schools in Dougherty County so we really need to get the word out,” said Cole. “Our State Superintendent, Richard Woods is supportive of this program, and the state health department has signed off on our program and said that it is safe and legal. I recently read a report that detailed efforts by the State of New Jersey where they are starting to collect unused food to help with hunger. This is just the right thing to do and we want people to know how to get it done. It is so easy to do and it was a no-brainer for us here at East Central.”
The newly appointed Executive Board member for Helping Hands Ending Hunger Inc. recalled a time she learned that the food sent home by the school was the only food one of their families had for the weekend. Although some of the stories are heartbreaking to hear, the joy of knowing East Central was able to help makes the mission that much more important.
Educators can be excited to know that performance in the classroom has been proven to excel when tiny bellies are full and there is less anxiety associated with lack of food at home.
“This is amazing for Ms. Cole, East Central and for Rome City Schools,” said Kristin Teems, Principal for EC. “I remember the day she found out about the chance to serve on the board. She told me that she had received this very special invitation and she was shocked, as well as excited that they had asked her to join them. This really speaks to the strength of our programs here at East Central and in all of Rome City Schools. Not only will she be able to offer guidance to other school systems, but she will be able to bring some things she has learned from other programs back to our schools, and hopefully help more of our students and their families to be their best. I am just beyond thrilled that Ms. Harward and Helping Hands Ending Hunger have selected her to help lead the organization, and we are so proud of the work she has done for our school.”