You know the gut wrenching feeling in the pit of your stomach, tightening more and more as you grow hungry by the minute? Not only affecting you physically but emotionally, commonly known as being “hangry,” a word that I know all too well. Eventually the uncomfortableness slowly dissipates as if your stomach is tired of being empty and loses hope. You quickly run to the fridge for a quick snack to hold you over until the next meal or just gorge right then and there because you have no self-control.
Right now, you’re shaking your head in agreement because you know exactly what I am talking about. As humorous as this is, there is a hard reality that not many people know or understand. Those that live in constant hunger are not just the homeless or those in third world countries, but are our neighbors, co-workers and children in our schools. They’re families who own their own homes and have jobs, but just can’t seem to make ends meet. They know hunger well, most every day, and there isn’t a quick snack for them because their fridges are empty and shelves bare. Even more disheartening, 1 in 6 children in America worry about when or where their next meal will come (Feeding America). It could be days, weeks or even months.
For the past 3 years, I’ve passionately worked in the fight against hunger with Feeding Tampa Bay, the largest food bank in West Central Florida. In that time, I’ve met some pretty amazing people. They’re determination and compassion for others laid the foundation for finding humanKIND, leading me on this journey to find those who dedicate their lives to making a difference. Through their stories, I’ve learned adversity is always matched by goodness and we are all capable of truly changing lives, and at Feeding Tampa Bay, we’re doing it one meal at a time.
Out of all the beautiful people I’ve been lucky enough to meet, there was one woman who was my first inspiration and I hope to, one day, have her strength and spirit. If you ever want to see what selflessness looks like – please meet Ms. Bonnie…
As the executive director of Kingdom Kids, her one and only mission in life is to feed all the hungry children in her community, providing them a chance to just be kids. Inspired by her grandmother, the first social worker in the community with only a 2nd grade education, who would welcome countless children in need to her home for a warm southern meal and a safe place to sleep. “I always knew that if I could be half the woman my grandmother was, I would be something great.”
Every week rain, shine, hurricane or flood, Ms. Bonnie makes the 30-minute drive to the warehouse in her pickup truck to pack it full of food for hundreds of children in need. The moment she enters the warehouse, her welcoming smile and warm greeting immediately embrace you and your day can’t help but get a little bit better. Her dedication to her mission is unwavering. She’ll walk from end to end of the warehouse, pushing 500+ pounds of food and after many tired breaths, she’ll take a quick break and then continue packing each box, with great care, into her truck, one by one like a game of Tetris. What seems like an impossible amount of food to fit into a small pick-up truck, Ms. Bonnie makes it look like a breeze. “The more food, the more full bellies!”
Ms. Bonnie truly makes a difference in every life she touches. She has served more than 30,000 hot meals to students relying on school lunches, distributes hundreds of boxes full of fresh food to her hungry neighbors and fostered over 100 children! “Children just want to feel safe and loved, treated like part of the family. It’s so rewarding to see the kids stand on their own two feet.”
Ms. Bonnie works day and night not only cooking up the most delectable southern meal the kids will ever have, but treating every person with the dignity and respect they deserve- but may rarely receive. As one of her clients stated, “I was a business owner but I had to walk away from it all when my partner grew sick. I’ve never asked for help before so it was very difficult to make that call. Not only does Ms. Bonnie go above and beyond to help my kids and I, but also treats me like family. That means the world to me, especially now.”
Ms. Bonnie’s work is widely recognized in the community, as she was recently named the Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero. With all her achievements, she is determined and driven by passion to give to others, even before herself. In fact, a couple months ago, Ms. Bonnie’s husband sadly passed away. Despite the tragic loss, she woke up early the next day to cook hundreds of hot meals to local seniors and children. “I can’t stand the thought of sitting at my table while others sit at theirs without a meal.” If that’s not true strength and dedication, I don’t know what is.
Ms. Bonnie, because of you… the world is a better place. Thank you for inspiring me and many others for years to come.
To learn more about Ms. Bonnie, visit Kingdom Kids.
Learn more about Feeding Tampa Bay, West Central Florida’s food bank providing food supplies to agencies like Ms. Bonnie.
To learn more about hunger in America, visit Feeding America.