Growing up in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Tiffany Turner depended on free and reduced lunches for her meals until she was 15.
Now a junior at UNC, she is giving back at the nonprofit organization TABLE that focuses on feeding hungry children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area.
“I started working with TABLE my first year at UNC, and I kind of chose that as my organization throughout my college years because as a child, I was food insecure and I was on free and reduced lunches and my family frequented food pantries,” she said. “I noticed when I was younger that the things we were getting from pantries were often peanut butter and bread and with TABLE, they make sure it is healthy food and produce.”
Turner will be one of the many volunteers or donors honored at TABLE each Tuesday until Giving Tuesday on Nov. 29.
Missy Farkouh, community outreach coordinator, said Giving Tuesday is an international campaign to have people donate to nonprofits after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but said that money is not the only thing nonprofits need.
“What concerns me about Giving Tuesday is that it really just emphasizes money, but I want people to know there is more to these nonprofits by just donating money — it's about donating time and taking part in any way you can,” she said. “So that is why we kind of did this other campaign where we are leading up to it where we are highlighting a volunteer or someone who has done something for the organization every week up to the day.”
Farkouh said that the campaign has already began, with three volunteers highlighted: one a teacher who donated 100 bowls for TABLE’s empty bowls program, a musician Tim Stambaugh and The Guilty Pleasures and a organization that has been helping for years. She says that this diversity of volunteers is a major part of the showcases.
“We are trying to find specific groups we have and someone who represents that group because we have people who come to TABLE in different ways," Farkouh said. "We have the music and the first was the artists, the next is a UNC student and the next is a restaurant — we want people to see themselves in at least one of those volunteers we highlight."
From spending eight to 10 hours a week with the group, to being a leader for Tar Heel TABLE and volunteering every month or on weekends, Turner is there whenever the nonprofit needs her and is one of the reasons she was chosen to be recognized.
“I think people get really excited about being honored in that way. I know I am getting called out and that is cool, but I don't do it because I want to be called out — but it is nice to be recognized for your work in the community,” she said. “I think it will be really important for people to see who the faces of table are, not necessarily the kids, but who are the people who make these things happen.”
Executive Director Ashton Tippins said the nonprofit and its volunteers focus on getting the children involved with TABLE healthy options for meals and snacks.
“Thirty percent of preschool, elementary and middle school kids in Chapel Hill and Carrboro participate in the free school lunch program or the free reduced school meals so that puts kids at risk for hunger on weekends and school holidays when they don't have access to their free school meals,” she said. “Research says that hungry kids do not perform as well in school, they are not confident, they have trouble forming relationships and they have behavioral problems, so TABLE provides healthy food to our kids through our backpack program.”
Tippins said that TABLE would be nothing without the hard work and dedication of its volunteers, and showcasing them is just one small way to return the favor.
“We have so many people that do so many wonderful things for TABLE so this is just one small way we can thank them,” she said.
“It demonstrates how people can be involved and empower people to get involved in their communities— just by volunteering or donating in some way and putting the focus on others in need. “
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