Haydon Caudill of Letcher County, a 2018 graduate of The Center for Rural Development’s Rogers Scholars program, stands in front of the boxes of food he collected in a Rogers Scholars holiday food drive.

2018 Rogers Scholar Haydon Caudill organized a holiday food drive to serve struggling families in Letcher County for his Rogers Scholars community service project.

Caudill, a graduate of The Center for Rural Development’s Rogers Scholars program and a junior at Letcher County Central High School, wanted to make sure families of students served by the Family Resource Center at Cowan Elementary School received Thanksgiving/Christmas meals.

“Many families in Letcher County do not have the funds to provide a holiday meal for their family,” Caudill said. “I chose this community to serve, because it was where I attended elementary and middle school, and I knew there was a great need.”

Caudill partnered with Cowan Elementary School and his church, Jeremiah Missionary Baptist Church, to organize a food drive for one month. Each week, he challenged students to bring in a different food item for the holiday boxes.

Church members helped with the food drive as well. They donated non-perishable food items and contributed financially to the project.

With the support from the church and students and staff at Cowan Elementary School, Caudill collected 159 cake mixes, 186 instant mashed potatoes, 117 boxes of stuffing, and 438 canned items for 60 holiday food boxes. Each box also contained a $15 gift card to be used to purchase fresh meat for the holiday meals.

In all, 60 families in Letcher County were served both Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, thanks to Caudill’s efforts.

“I am very proud to be a part of something that helped so many people,” Caudill said. “I never thought when I started this project that it would be so successful. It feels great to help out those in need in my community.”

A parent and recipient of the holiday food boxes wrote, “You don’t realize how much this has helped, because we are really struggling right now.” Another said, “We would not have had anything for the holidays, if not for this.”

Caudill said his parents, Larry and Karen Caudill of Jeremiah, helped organize the food boxes. “We had more than enough food,” he said. “We actually donated the leftovers to the local food pantry.”