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Feeding Heart, Body & Soul at the West Johnston Food Pantry

January 17, 2017

Feeding heart, body and soul. That’s what Rosa Lee Robinson and the West Johnston High School Food Pantry are all about.

Rosa Lee is both a patron and volunteer at the pantry. “I volunteer because, one: I like to work in the community. And two: they are helping me so I give my time back to them,” says Rosa Lee. “I know what it is to struggle and to try to make ends meet. And then I know what it is to give and help with that struggle. I feel it from both sides.”

Rosa Lee is the sole provider for her family. With a disabled husband and two of her four kids still living at home, she’s got a lot of mouths to feed and bills to pay. She works full time at a local group home and is studying on the side to get a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling.

“Every little bit helps. Whatever I can get from here helps with my family. My kids have a great appetite and we like to cook with fresh vegetables. To be honest, that’s expensive so if I can come here and get a bag of collard greens for free versus at the store it’s $3.49— so that’s $3.49 I can put somewhere else.”

The West Johnston High School Food Pantry started as a partnership between the school, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and a grant from the Food Lion Great Pantry Makeover. It now operates almost self-sufficiently with community food drives and volunteers like Rosa Lee picking up food donations from the local Food Lion three times a week. The Food Shuttle still steps in with fresh produce and meats when the shelves start to look bare.

The pantry has become part of the community, both for local residents like Rosa Lee but also for the student volunteers who help run the pantry.

Food Pantry Co-President Hannah Creech didn’t realize how much she took for granted. “I would have never thought about struggling to find food,” said Hannah. “It’s really opened my eyes to how many people around here are in need.”

It’s a lesson that Rosa Lee thinks that the students will keep forever. “These kids are learning a valuable lesson. I don’t think they’ll ever forget it. They’ll tell these stories forever because they are helping. It’s all in the heart. It’s a heart thing.”

Rosa Lee says one day she hopes to thank all those who have helped her along the way.

“I’m going to be able to give back one day,” says Rosa Lee. “That’s my dream. Right now, I’m giving back in time. There is going to be one day that I’m going to be able to write that check and say thank you for all that you’ve done.”

Rosa Lee Robinson, 54, finds a fresh salad she likes from the West Johnston Food Pantry as student volunteers Abigail Jones and Kristen Suggs (right) assist on Wednesday, December 14, 2016 in Benson, N.C. The pantry is a student-led non-profit, which is run out of the West Johnston High School and serves families in need of food in the Cleveland township area. (Photo by Sara D. Davis)

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