February is Black History Month, the following is a spotlight article on Cheryl James, friend of the Food Bank for 30 years and former Board President, current Board Member.
Cheryl James is a dedicated Board Member at God’s Pantry Food Bank as well as a great example of an African American leader in our community. Cheryl began her work volunteering in a small food pantry that was run by her local church nearly 30 years ago. “The pantry was operated by God’s Pantry Food Bank and staffed by church volunteers. This site distributed CSFP items, the most well-known of which was the ‘government cheese.’”
Almost 30 years later, Cheryl is still working with Food Bank as a caring volunteer in the pantry site and warehouse, member of the board of directors, previous president of the board of directors, and devout advocate for God’s Pantry Food Bank. “As an active member of the Food Bank board of directors and a frequent pantry volunteer, my efforts are focused on spreading awareness and supporting those in need. As a board member, my work supports the highly talented Food Bank management team and staff as they strive to reduce hunger in Kentucky.”
As an advocate for God’s Pantry, Cheryl admits that her knowledge of hunger has transformed over the years. “All those years ago, while working at the pantry, I had a less than minimal awareness of the extent of hunger in my community.” After years of volunteering, Cheryl states that her work has provided her with “an ever-expanding knowledge of the issues surrounding hunger in Kentucky and the nation. Perhaps the most striking awareness is that hunger has the potential to impact so many people. Hunger does not equal homelessness. It doesn’t equate to unemployment. People struggling with food insecurity often look just like my family, my co-workers and my friends.”
Cheryl has volunteered all these years in order to help solve hunger and transform the community in which she lives. Her hopes for the future is that “no person in Central or Eastern Kentucky remains at risk of hunger.” With that being said, Cheryl gave this advice to those who wish to help her in the fight for a better Kentucky, “I encourage any person who wants to engage with the Food Bank to just do it. A person could choose to make a monetary donation to the Food Bank. They could host a food drive, become an advocate or volunteer in a number of other capacities. During all my years as a volunteer, my most rewarding experiences were shared with friends. An individual may also consider volunteering with an agency that sources product from the Food Bank. The opportunities are vast and as of today there remains much work to do.”
If volunteering is not feasible, Cheryl recommends advocating. She explains that hunger can be solved by “increasing awareness of hunger and the issues facing those that struggle with food insecurity. I do not believe one can be truly knowledgeable about hunger and not feel compelled to take action and join the efforts to reduce hunger in Central and Eastern Kentucky.”
Even with her dedication and years of diligent work, Cheryl remains humble. While some would consider her a “Hunger Hero” for her time and effort put into solving hunger, Cheryl states that “I would NEVER consider myself a hero of any kind, I think of the label ‘hero’ as being one that others must bestow.” When asked about her work with the Food Bank, Cheryl shares one of her inspiring experiences. “I’m most touched by those who apologize for needing the Food Bank’s services. I always respond by letting the individual know that serving people in their time of need is the reason the Food Bank exists.”
Cheryl is truly an inspiration and a devoted leader in our community. Over the years, she has remained committed to her work with the Food Bank. “I have always possessed a strong spirit of voluntarism and that spirit remains with me today, almost 30 years later.”