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‘Anyone can make a difference,’ local teenager says

Posted on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 3:51 pm

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For the past two years, a Hanover teenager has given back to her community by collecting canned goods, boxes of food and monetary donations to help feed adults and youth in the county who don’t have enough to eat.

But Katie Goodman, 14, is not the only teen trying to make a difference.

In April, Goodman joined other children and youth across the world in giving back and improving their communities through various acts of service for Global Youth Service Day.

Katie Goodman, 14, recently volunteered as part of Global Youth Service Day. The community-minded teenager helps collect food to feed the hungry.

Katie Goodman, 14, recently volunteered as part of Global Youth Service Day. The community-minded teenager helps collect food to feed the hungry.

For the second year, Goodman organized a countywide food drive for the national event. With the help of 19 youths and 24 adults, the project, Help the Hungry, collected 863 food donations as well as some monetary donations, which will feed 1,259 individuals in Hanover.

“I do this because I know that I’m making a difference and actually helping people,” Goodman said.

All donations support local organizations such as Ashland Christian Emergency Services (ACES), Mechanicsville Churches Emergency Functions (MCEF), Hanover Safe Place and Western Hanover Emergency Action Team (WHEAT).

Help the Hungry started in 2011 after Goodman entered a public speaking contest for her South Anna 4-H group and chose to talk about “Childhood Hunger in America.” Her inspiration to make a difference hit her after she saw a few TV commercials raising awareness about starving children in various parts of the world.

“A lot of them really made me think that if there were children overseas going hungry, then I knew that there were children here that needed our help,” Goodman said.

Though the effort started small with Goodman just contributing some canned food donations to the food bank, it quickly grew.

Goodman weighs all the food that is collected so she can keep track of how many people the program helps. One pound of food can feed one person for a day, covering three meals. In 2011, Goodman provided meals for 1,100 individuals, a goal that she achieved in six months and then set another objective of helping 2,011 people and exceeded it, according to her mom, Betty Kay Goodman. The following year, her daughter’s goal was 3,000, which she surpassed.

Goodman’s mom said she never expected her daughter’s 4-H project to launch into what it is today. She thought there would be one food drive before her daughter moved onto something else, like many teenagers tend to do, jumping between different hobbies and activities. But since the beginning of Help the Hungry, Goodman and the program have helped a total of 15,207 people.

“I really didn’t think it would grow into what it has,” Goodman’s mother said.

This effort is only one of many that Help the Hungry is a part of. Goodman also works with the organization Plant a Row, which encourages gardeners to grow an extra plot of vegetables to be donated to the food bank or a soup kitchen. She also distributes fresh produce to families who are a part of the summer lunch program at John M. Gandy Elementary School. In a continuation of that, Goodman passes out vegetables to children participating in Hanover County Parks and Recreation’s summer program. Those are just some of the outreach activities Goodman either has started or is a part of in Hanover, but all of her volunteer services generally focus on specifically helping children who are in need.

“She does a lot,” Goodman’s mom said. “[I feel] very proud.”

After giving speeches at churches and clubs as well as promoting the cause at Goodman’s school and at local businesses, the effort has gained traction from community members.

At the Saturday food drive, Jacob Bellinger, 14, was one of many who volunteered at one of seven collection locations around the county outside grocery stores and in shopping center parking lots including the Ashland-Hanover Shopping Center and outside of the Ashland and Mechanicsville Walmarts.

Bellinger, who is one of Goodman’s peers at Liberty Middle School, volunteered his time on Saturday because he saw a flyer for the service project at school and wanted to help out.

“It’s just horrible that people don’t have enough food to eat,” Bellinger said.

Although Global Youth Service day only lasts for three days, Goodman’s heart is in helping others. Though Goodman cares about making a difference in people’s lives, being a part of the numerous community programs also allows her to share her passion with individuals she meets and get them involved in the cause.

“It’s easy to make a difference,” Goodman said. “Anyone can make a difference.”