Imagine a child who is a bright, creative, driven individual soaring for the stars. Imagine that child has a tough time, though, expressing his or her thoughts and dreams in a succinct way. Mighty Writers Camden has stepped in to help our community’s kids to flourish and succeed through comprehensive programs to enhance their lives.
Each year, Mighty Writers teaches more than 3,500 children in the Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York regions to think clearly and write with clarity in order to reach success. Their curriculum includes toddler literacy, afterschool tutoring, writing workshops, mindfulness sessions, and college and career preparation.
The non-profit organization realizes no one can achieve educational greatness if there’s not enough food on the table.
During the pandemic onset in March 2020, Derrick Gallashaw, who was a Mighty Writers volunteer at the time and whose daughter was enrolled in the writing program, knew he wanted to help his neighbors find the resources they needed, including nutritious meals. He is now a program manager there.
“When a lot of students weren’t in person, we had to figure out another way to reach the community,” Derrick explained. “In came Philabundance with great help and now we’re able to provide hundreds of people a day with food. People wanted all kinds of groceries. A lot of people were struggling, a lot of people lost jobs, and it was very harsh.”
Katie Rogers, a program manager and elementary writing teacher for Mighty Writers, praised Philabundance for giving children the extra sustenance to thrive.
“A lot of parents come to us about the afterschool help, so we’re also able to provide the kids with snacks afterschool. As soon as they get out of school they get a snack,” Katie said. “The fresh produce really goes a long way since we’re pretty much in a grocery desert in this area, so having fresh produce available really is important in developing the kids as well as helping the adults in the community.”
Derrick added that the kids and adults are still in great need, and as the numbers keep growing, he said, Philabundance has been a critical lifeline.
“Philabundance is our main source, the food is very good quality, and our community is very appreciative. From the amount that we get, the quality we get, the communication, everything that Philabundance does for us has been completely pivotal in our success with the community. We look forward to continuing this relationship and growing it more,” he said.
Caitlyn Cruz, born and raised in Camden, works alongside Derrick as a dedicated volunteer at Mighty Writers.
“It’s very important to me because since the pandemic everything has changed, and I think this is a great way and help for the community and for myself as well,” she said. “I feed the need to be a part of that.”
Caitlyn and her family have been personally affected by the pandemic and rising food prices and are thankful for the extra support.
“You have to work harder in order to provide a decent meal for you and your family,” she said. “Philabundance and Mighty Writers really have been a huge help for me because I use them. It helps me save a lot, it helps me not have to worry about not eating healthy. The quality is great. Everything is supermarket quality without supermarket price.”
Jackie Lee, who is also a food recipient, said she appreciates the Philabundance and Mighty Writers partnership, and enjoys the rice, beans, fresh vegetables, and other healthy items to feed her and her family.
“It helps out because everyone’s hungry and not everyone can afford to buy food.,” Jackie said. “The [MW] staff is great. They’re very friendly, they play music, they have line dances. I live across the street and can see the line starting at 9 o’clock. Everyone’s become very close-knit. You know who’s going to show up early and you know when there’s something good because the line’s wrapped around the block. There’s always enough to go around.”
Gloria Roller visits Mighty Writers’ food distribution each week too and said she appreciates receiving necessary groceries like cooking oil and soups. She lends a hand to her friends in need as well.
“I don’t know what I’d be eating every Wednesday if it wasn’t for them,” Gloria explained. “I get some for the seniors in my building so everybody’s comfortable and gets a little extra meal. I just care about people and if I can carry few extras, I’ll carry a few extras for people who don’t have a ride. I have a ride I’m blessed. Share what you get in this world. You try and do a little bit for your neighbor, your friend, and to the person walking around the street, a ‘Hello’ is the least you can do.”
The feelings of appreciation and acceptance among the community receiving additional aid from Philabundance and Mighty Writers is remarkable.
“If someone needs help, they should know nobody’s going to make them feel shameful for having to come here to get groceries. They make you feel just like you’re at home and it’s a great experience,” said Caitlyn. “I think that it’s wonderful that Philabundance and Mighty Writers have that relationship in order to provide these fresh things for the community. I get the feedback especially from the Spanish community and they like it and I think it should continue. It’s something this community really needs.”
All Mighty Writers programs are free to the children and families they serve. To learn more about their programs and to find out how you can help, visit New Jersey – Mighty Writers.
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