The Snacks for Success donation drive filled volunteers’ vehicles with nourishing goodies for Pathways to Success students during the annual event held Sept. 9 at Habitat for Humanity ReStore near Lewes.
Sponsored by Jeanine O’Donnell with State Farm Insurance, the drive helps stock school pantries with trail mix, granola bars, tuna and crackers, and other items for Pathways students at Cape, Milford, Seaford and Sussex Technical high schools.
O’Donnell said she hopes to build the donation drive every year while also raising awareness of food and home insecurity.
“Those two things shouldn’t be happening in Sussex County,” O’Donnell said. “There is too much disparity.”
Pathways to Success founder and Executive Director Faye Blake said the pandemic exacerbated food insecurity in Sussex County; she said 16.2 percent of county residents experience food insecurity regularly, and 24 pockets of poverty exist in the county.
“We can’t have healthy kids without healthy communities,” Blake said. “So many kids are in home conditions with alcohol, drugs and abject poverty. They come to school as a safe place.”
When the pandemic closed schools, Blake said, she and her team traveled throughout the county to drop off food and laptops to those in need.
“These kids were on a slippery slope, and Pathways will always be there for them as long as I can breathe,” Blake said.
Blake said she grew up poor, in a home with no running water. She credits her grandmother for her success, and for instilling within her the drive to help others.
“It’s an awesome thing to know you can make a positive difference in someone’s life,” Blake said.
Pathways volunteer Scott Anthony said he has helped the donation drive behind the scenes the past several years. When he was manager of BJ’s Wholesale in Millsboro, he said, two of his employees received homes thanks to Habitat for Humanity, which offers affordable homeownership opportunities to families unable to obtain conventional house financing.
“Our whole team would help with a house build,” Anthony said.
Laurie Meacham stopped by to hand-deliver a $1,000 check toward the donation drive on behalf of her family’s Lowe II Foundation.
“I’m a retired teacher and I like to help with kids,” Meacham said. “Faye [Blake] is so infectious; how could you not want to help?”
Joe Brett brought the Old Shoal food truck with a selection of offerings, and attendees were entertained by country music singer Joy Scheck.
Pathways to Success focuses on student stability, academic achievement and behavior modification, and participating students to date have attained a 98 percent high school graduation rate. Of those, 96 percent go on to college, with remaining students entering the military or workforce.
Learn more at pathways-2-success.org.