Whitaker Mother Organizes Art Festival & Food Drive that Helps WS/FC Students
SEPTEMBER 30, 2019 – Thanks to the school system’s Social Work Department, struggling families can receive needed food.
And thanks to the mother of two Whitaker Elementary students and to those who participated in the Sowing Seeds Children's Festival and Food Drive, the department’s Food for Thought Pantry is quite full.
Sowing Seeds was held Sept. 22. Everyone who came was encouraged to bring at least one non-perishable item to donate. Many also donated money.
This is the third year that Bridget Orengo, whose children go to Whitaker Elementary, has organized the festival.
“This year, she partnered with Art for Art's Sake (AFAS) who collected food at their art gallery for weeks prior to the event,” said Michael Pesce, the Director of School Social Work for Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
“The festival was on Liberty Street just outside of AFAS and included a number of performers who were mostly made up of students who attend Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.”
“The event provided us with enough food to fill our pantry as well as collect $638.39 for the Food for Thought Pantry. We owe a great deal of thanks to Bridget and AFAS for their time and commitment to this endeavor, which will help so many children across the county.”
“It is worth sharing that the 39 cents in the amount of donated funds was from a little girl who emptied her pockets of all of her change to donate money to the food pantry.”
Orengo traces the origin of the event to her son Felix’s desire several years ago – back when he was 5 – to hold a yard sale so that he could raise the money to buy a Lego set.
At another time of the year, she would have been happy to support that. Unfortunately, it was February.
“I said to him, ‘Honey, there is snow on the ground. No one will come to a yard sale!’"
“He was persistent, so I told him to gather his artwork from around the house, and I'll make a sign ‘Art for Sale,’ and so we did just that. I put him and his younger brother in the wagon and took him up to the corner to set up a modern day lemonade stand in West Salem, where we live.”
“People started pulling over, inquiring about his works of art and buying in return! My mind started turning, thinking about children having a place to sell their works of art, supporting their creativity and development. Also, thinking about how I could combine this idea with supporting a local humanitarian outreach, for children and their families.”
“My vision was clear: Sowing Seeds Children's Festival and Food Drive was created. It is a Children's Festival that features children artists selling and sharing their works of art, entertainment by children, and organizations from our community creating free ‘ARTivities’ and networking with our Winston-Salem families, and a Food Drive supporting families in need in our Winston Salem/ Forsyth County Schools system."
"This year, I approached Arts for Arts Sake about hosting the festival in their park and under their umbrella as they have served our community through arts for so long. I received a big “YES.”
Arts for Arts Sake took Sowing Seeds under its wing, so to speak, Orengo said, providing event insurance, permits, bike police, sound guy, and hosting it in their park.
About 30 children artists signed up to share and sell their works of art. Orengo’s son Felix, who is now in the third grade, made beaded bracelets to sell, and Diego, who is in kindergarten, brought paintings.
In exchange for having a place to sell their art, each artist committed to give $5 of their earnings to the Food Pantry.
Orengo asked the young people to walk to the Food for Thought Pantry table and hand the money to Pesce, so they could “see and feel this humanitarian outreach.”
Other cash donations were made by people who visited the festival.
There were also a few contributors who made significant donations, such as AFAS and one of the performers, Soulsingn, Pesce said. “Soulsingn is a band made up of 13 to 18-year olds who are all Winston-Salem/Forsyth County students except for the lead singer who just graduated and is now at N.C. State.”
Performers also included the members of the Whitaker Wheel Power Unicycle Team and of the Step Team at Philo-Hill Magnet Academy.
The pantry serves an important role, Pesce said.
“Providing emergency food supplies can make a real difference for a family who may be struggling financially and encountering other difficulties such as chronic health conditions, inadequate housing, unemployment, or behavioral health issues,”
“The food helps to provide some relief, even if for a moment, so that other issues can be managed and children can have increased opportunities for school success, and improved health and well-being.”
The Food for Thought Pantry was established more than 10 years ago by Lynne Berry who, at the time, was the Director of the Social Work Department.
“She created a space for it in our building at City Market,” Pesce said. “While we manage it, the pantry is continuously funded by Mount Tabor United Methodist Church. While donations from the public help it to remain stocked, we obtain most of the food from the Second Harvest Food Bank.
“Twice a month we are able to visit the food bank and shop for food including shelf-stable food, bread, eggs, and frozen items. There is a nominal charge for us to shop at the food bank twice a month and “Mount Tabor United Methodist Church picks up the tab for this. We also receive select items for free each month from the federal government which can vary from cases of greens beans, to pasta, shelf stable milk, and a variety of other dry goods.”
“Even though Mount Tabor United Methodist Church funds it, they also coordinate regular food drives for us, which help keep the pantry stocked.”
“We are the only pantry that does not allow the general public to enter and shop. Our pantry is unique in that our social workers and nurses assess family situations for food insecurity, gather the needed items for the family, and then deliver it to their home."
"This process allows us to work closely with a family to not only address food insecurity issues, but help them with other issues that may be creating a barrier for their children to gain an education. While the pantry is small, we have three large freezers and one refrigerator (purchased by Mount Tabor United Methodist Church) as well as ample room for dry goods.”
“Last year we helped to bring food to over 300 families which have a wide range of individuals in the home.”