Helping Hands: Little Richard’s, West Forsyth Key Club team up to provide meals for those in need

Published 12:10 am Thursday, April 7, 2022

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Frequent, gleeful shouts of joy rang out from the cafeteria at West Forsyth High School last Saturday. The exuberant expressions signified another box was completely full of packaged meals and ready to be picked up by a volunteer or member of the “Feed the Hungry Children” staff that were present to guide all who had gathered to lend a hand.

The shouts had to overpower the music that played continuously as close to 100 volunteers manned their packing stations during the  afternoon wave as hit songs from Boston, John Parr (“Man in Motion”) and Dolly Parton (“9 to 5”) kept the mood light and playful.

The majority of the volunteers were students at West and members of the Key Club. There was another set of volunteers who were staff members at Little Richard’s BBQ in Clemmons, and some were even members of the Karagiorgis family, owner’s of the restaurant on Stadium Drive that prides itself on giving back and making an impact on the community.

It was a shining example of a community coming together to lend a helping hand — or in this case, plenty of helping hands.

This was the second such partnership between Little Richard’s, the West Forsyth Key Club and “Feed the Starving Children.”

When all was said and done last Saturday night, 93,312 meals had been packed and loaded onto a truck, good enough to feed 255 kids every day for one year. Two hundred and twenty-five volunteers showed up to work three two-hour shifts, with many working more than one. And 432 total boxes were packed onto 13 full pallets, ready to be sent for distribution for those in need.

The idea for the collaboration came from Stephen Karagiorgis, one of the owners of Little Richard’s and a former student at West. Once he established what he and the restaurant could do to help the less fortunate and found an organization to partner with, he called on Theresa Bryant, an English teacher at West and advisor of the Key Club, to drum up support.

“We started doing something at the restaurants in 2018 we called “Meal for Meal Monday” where every meal sold that day, we donated funds for one meal for a staring child somewhere around the world,” Karagiorgis said. “We wanted to do something small as a way to give back. We looked at several different organizations and I got attached to this one because of their commitment to kids. There are so many kids that die of starvation around the world every day. And because of the community’s overwhelming generosity, we were able to raise enough money to have another meal-packing event. We did our first one in 2019 and haven’t been able to do them the last two years because of the pandemic.”

The partnership between West and the Karagiorgis family didn’t start with this event. They had previously partnered with another project to help feed the homeless at Samaritan Soup Kitchen a few years ago.

“They reached out to me a few years ago when they wanted to help with Samaritan Ministries,” Bryant said. “They come out one Sunday and feed everyone that walk in the door that day. We did that with the first few years and then Stephen approached me to ask if we had every done anything with Feed My Starving Children. Once he told me about them, he said ‘if I can fundraise and provide the money, can you find me the volunteers and find me a place to have it?’ We have the perfect place to do it here at school and I knew our students would be more than willing to help. So, that’s my part.”

Bryant said that the current Key Club membership is 345 students and is the largest single chapter in North and South Carolina.

“We’ve been lucky to be a part of some many great opportunities at West, but this, by far, is the most rewarding,” Bryant added. “It’s service. And our kids may be helping out kids who are the same age as them. I don’t need to make them come because I think they realize the impact they can make doing something like this, too. I tell them, not only are you going to love it, but it is something that you can be really proud of yourself for. I like to give them opportunities to get that feeling like I get when I help someone. The kids show up. They are amazing and they have huge hearts.”

All volunteers went through a 10-minute orientation training on the do’s and don’ts associated with the packing process. For the afternoon wave, there were 13 packing stations set up, with each station having 6-7 participants handling a specific task that included measuring proper amounts to place in a clear, plastic bag that would ultimately end up in a box as one of the finished products.

Sarah Turner, a member of West’s Key Club, also participated in the event in 2019.

“Mrs. Bryant told us about it, and I had a lot of fun helping a couple of years ago,” Turner said. “It’s a lot of fun to be here with the group and out supporting our community. It’s a happy atmosphere and great to be a part of something like this, helping such a worthwhile cause.”

Both Bryant and Karagiorgis said that there’s nothing like that feeling you get when they Feed the Hungry Children staff announce at the end of the day the relevant numbers about how much food was packed and how many kids will benefit.

“In 2019, they had just had the hurricane in Haiti, so that’s where those meals went,” said Bryant, whose husband and children also volunteered at the event. “And this organization is now starting to send meals to Ukraine. I’m going to ask if that can be our wish because we are seeing the suffering that is taking place there now.”

For Karagiorgis, it all comes down to giving back.

“This is something we hope will continue to grow and grow,” he said. “We are lucky to have the support we do, and we are fortunate to be in a position to help others. Plus, we have a lot of fun while we are doing it. It’s a great way to spend the day, knowing you can have this kind of impact on people who need it.”