There is no ally for altruistic service quite as powerful as partnership. Communities in Schools of Rome-Floyd County (CIS) experiences this powerful catalytic connection in their work every day. Most recently CIS has partnered with Helping Hands Ending Hunger to provide the Rome High School food pantry (located inside the College and Career Academy) with funds in the amount of $500.

This service is in direct correlation with the mission of CIS. “We understand that nonacademic barriers like not having enough food, or nutritious food, is an impediment to students’ success,” Executive Director, Gregory Wooten said. “So, we try to knock down those nonacademic barriers so that children can be successful academically.”

Helping Hands is a not-for-profit organization, conceived in 2015 in Trion, Ga., partnering with schools and food banks to work against food insecurity, reduce food waste, and invest in education equity.

When Wooten crossed paths with Helping Hands founder Carla Harward, it was obvious that the two organizations would collaborate beautifully to offer contribution to a community that is near and dear to their missions.

“As partners with Rome City Schools and Floyd County Schools,” Wooten explained, “we have an investment here in Rome and Floyd County to see our students succeed. There’s no better place that we can put forth these funds.”

CCA Assistant Principal, Misty Tucker, said that the Rome High food pantry takes care of basic needs.  “With this program we’re able to send food home so that the students and their families have it over the weekend,” she explained. “They return the bags on Monday, we pack them again, and then they pick them up the next Friday.”

The support extends when kids are out of school. On long weekends, or for example, the spring break holiday, Tucker said they will increase the weight of those bags so that the families have additional food.

Tucker acknowledged that Helping Hands is actually the reason the CCA is equipped with a food pantry in the first place. Once extra space in the building was identified, the partnership began, and it was with the first donation from Helping Hands that the CCA food pantry began supporting students.

“They’re taking it to a whole new level here at Rome High, which is exciting,” Harward said. “They’re involving students as pantry managers, giving them work experience, and also reaching out further into the community and addressing the need on a broader scale.”

“For $80,” Tucker explained, “you can sponsor a child for a year, which is pretty impressive.” She explained further that the food pantry is receiving food delivery trucks every other month, the cost of which is usually $500. “With this fabulous donation,” she added, “it will take us through the end of this year.”

Helping Hands is now working with over 65 schools in the state, three of which are Rome City Schools (East Central, West End Elementary and Rome High School). Harward said that they partner with all of the regional food banks wherever their schools are.

“We’re growing,” she said, “and we hope to become a national program and it all started right here in our little community. It’s very exciting and rewarding, but also heartening because you see that the need exists everywhere.”

Harward explained that the impact of food security is invaluable. She said that Helping Hands did a performance metric before the year of COVID-19 that tracked performance on standardized tests from one grade to the next. “There was immediate improvement seen in these children,” she said. “The simple act of feeding them, nourishing their bodies and their brains gives them that hand up that they need to perform to the best of their abilities.”

“Our program is very anonymous,” Tucker added. “We’re here to support, but to support with dignity.”

For information on how to get involved and contribute, contact:

Gregory Wooten: [email protected] or call 706-802-5740

Carla Harward: helpinghandsendinghunger.org or call 706-844-4014