Shelby Countians helping friends and strangers is nothing new, but a new initiative will help feed hungry senior adults within Shelby County.

No one wants to see a child starve, and the community tends to equate food insecurity with kids more than perhaps others equally in need – adult seniors.

“We want to help low-income senior adults,” said Mary Courtney, commercial loan officer for Independence Bank, who is partnering with another type of senior.

As a way to give back to the community, the bank partnered with the senior class of Shelby County High School and Multi-Purpose Community Action Agency to create Seniors Feeding Seniors, a food drive to help this vulnerable population.
“Julie Webb is librarian at SCHS and helped spearhead the project at the high school,” Courtney said. “She asked senior leaders at SCHS to get involved with it. The seniors ran with it.”

Younger seniors
Prior to an SCHS pep rally Friday to announce the senior food drive on March 10, students Perry Allan, school board student representative; Isabella Wiley, president of the senior class; and advisory representatives Dani Roldan, J Patton, Carlee Poore, Sofi Arnold and Paige Boien gave reasons they’re on board. Advisory reps attend meetings every three months then filter information back to their advisories.
“All the teachers in the building have advisories and they are helping us maintain our grades, and making sure we’re being advocated for if we need to talk to another teacher. They help us with defensive learning,” said Carlee Poore.

Paige Boien said the group attended a meeting and decided to help plan the food drive since mid-February. “This is really a good opportunity,” Poore said. “I didn’t realize how big an issue it was within our own community. You see it on the news, but that’s other countries or other states. I never really thought it was that bad in our community.” Some senior adults get meals through Multi-Purpose Community Action Agency, however, that doesn’t cover weekends. Other food sources may be sporadic and seniors may be shut in.

The high school seniors made the drive into a friendly competition in each grade level. “We want to gather as much as we can,” Courtney said. Winners of each advisory will get a pizza party. “This will help students get involved,” she said, and perhaps start a life-long habit of service.

By the first morning of the drive, several items had already been donated. “We started with eight items this morning,” said Allan.
The drive will go through March 30. “Our goal is to raise a thousand items in order to donate to senior citizens in Shelbyville,” said student J.J. Patton.

Independence partnered with MPCAA, who contacted clients to ask permission to deliver to them. “After spring break, we’ll deliver to seniors in the county,” Courtney said.

Courtney wants to include low-income seniors who may not be affiliated with MPCAA and can use suggestions of senior adults in need. “The bank has a commitment and a motto: Here for good,” she said.

Food insecurity is close to Courtney’s heart.

“I’m involved with Farmers Feeding Families, and food insecurity is important to me,” she said.

Food drive requests include peanut butter and cheese crackers in individual packages, apple sauce, fruit cups, granola and cereal bars, and tuna or chicken packages for protein. “These can be snacks or extra meals on days MPCAA doesn’t deliver,” Courtney said.

Move forward
Senior Roldan said this is a new initiative, never done before here.
“We’re kind of like a Guinea pig, Shelby County,” she said. “We’re teaming up with the bank. We have some connections there to be able to do this.”

Roldan said next year, SCHS hopes Collins High School will join their efforts. “We hope to get even more food.”
Wiley said she hopes the community will drop off items in drop boxes at the high school or the bank. “We would like the school board to match whatever we do. Hopefully they’ll be able to match it,” Wiley said, however, the board has not been officially approached yet.

Sofi Arnold said these seniors visited each advisory Monday, March 13.

“We [visited] each grade’s advisory to pass out boxes. We’ll give them a little rundown on the drive and show a video,” said Arnold. “We went over our goal, deadlines, dates and items to bring in, to hype everyone up and get excited about it.”

Boien wants to make SCHS students and the community aware of the need.

“We’re doing Seniors Feeding Seniors because people don’t think about the seniors,” Boien said. “They think about kids who are hungry, but they don’t think about the seniors who aren’t able to go out and get food. They may not have money.”

“The goal for this is in the next couple of years for this to be more than just a school thing, to be a community issue as well,” Patton said.

Folks can drop off food at SCHS at 1701 Frankfort Rd. or Independence Bank at 65 Mack Walters Rd. in Village Plaza, during the day. Call the bank at 502-487-5220 for more information.

Published The Sentinel-News, Tammy Shaw
March 15, 2023