Pantry Soldiers Organize Fundraisers to Support Neighbors in Need

By: Laura Poff

Three summers ago, Advisory Board Chair Lora Holladay took her son Spencer and some friends to visit The Salvation Army’s food pantry in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The seventh graders were moved when they saw the poorly stocked shelves and realized that people, many their own age, depended on the pantry. They decided to come together and do something for their neighbors in need.

The boys, all students of Westminster Catawba Christian School, had never held fundraisers before, but with Holladay’s help, they decided to hold a community yard sale to benefit the food pantry. Calling themselves the Pantry Soldiers, they went door to door in their neighborhoods asking people to donate goods to be sold at the event later that summer. The soldiers raised $3,000 that summer and decided to make that yard sale an annual fundraising event, held at and supported by their school.

In their third year, 2016, they added a second fundraising event called Cycle Out Hunger, where local cyclists register to race. The events raised a combined $10,000, allowing the boys to start an endowment fund to keep the food pantry open and in-stock for the years to come.

The Pantry Soldiers, now high-school sophomores, held their second annual Cycle Out Hunger charity bike ride on Saturday, April 28 with 21 registered riders, raising $8,000. The boys said the event was a success and that their volunteer and fundraising work with The Salvation Army has taught them to see the need in their hometown.

“When we go on mission trips, we see poverty as someone else’s problem,” Joel Haley, one of the Pantry Soldiers, said. “We started to see that it’s here too, it’s our community too.”

Realizing that they have opportunities and resources that other teenagers don’t have made the problem more personal.

“It’s really eye-opening to drive around the city and see people our age who are suffering, people who live just two miles away from you who are struggling,” Luke Hancock said. “You can really see what’s happening when you get involved, you can disassociate yourself from it when you’re not.”

Holladay credits their school with teaching its students to help others when they can and for providing time and resources for the Pantry Soldiers to do just that.

“You don’t have to be an adult to address food insecurity,” she said. “I hope this plants the seed that no matter your age or circumstances, you can be the hands and feet of Jesus.”