2018 Rogers Scholar Madison Begley collected 2,600 food items in a school food drive to stock a food pantry for Lee County Elementary School students.

2018 Rogers Scholar Madison Begley started a food pantry for students at Lee County Elementary School for her Rogers Scholars community service project.

Begley, a graduate of The Center for Rural Development’s Rogers Scholars program and a student at Lee County High School, organized and stocked the school food pantry with supplies donated by elementary students in a food drive.

During the “Feeding Our Friends” food drive, students were asked to bring in non-perishable food items that required little or no cooking. The homeroom with the most donated items received a reward: an ice cream sundae party.

“To know that I have had a small part in helping feed someone who is in need means the world to me,” said Begley, a high school senior. “I have been fortunate enough to never have had to worry about being hungry and I have come to realize that everyone is not that fortunate. No one, especially a child, should have to worry about having enough to eat. I feel blessed to have been able to help others.”

Begley’s Rogers Scholars community service project did not stop there. She made pre-packed food bags for teachers to give out to students at the end of the school day if they felt the student needed to take food home.

She received a $500 grant from the Priscilla K. Gray Learning Center to purchase 1,335 to restock the food pantry and start a similar program for head start and middle and high school students.

“Teachers are often busy and may not have the time to put together food bags,” Begley said. “Having the bags ready made it easy for them to pass out food quickly to students when they otherwise may not have had the time.”

Begley also filled boxes and bags of donated food and distributed to families in need through the Kentucky River Community Care, a private nonprofit community mental health center.

“Throughout this process, I had assistance from 2018 Rogers Explorer Morgan Hinkle,” she said. “Morgan helped collect, count, and bag the food when I was not available, due to my extracurricular activities.”

Halfway through the school year, Begley realized the food pantry was running low on supplies. She applied for the Priscilla K. Gray Learning Grant and received a $500 grant to help restock the pantry at Lee County Elementary School and started a similar program for head start students and middle and high school students.

Vickie Hinkle, a teacher at Lee County Elementary School, commended Begley for her community service project. “I have students that I know need food at home,” Hinkle said. “The food pantry at our school makes it easy to provide food to those students. It has been a big help and I know the kids appreciate it.”

Through the school food drive and grant monies, Begley collected or purchased a total of 3,935 food items to stock the pantry at Lee County Elementary School the entire school year and supply food for head start students and middle and high school students. She plans to continue the community service project for the 2019-20 school year.

The project was coordinated in partnership with Lee County Elementary principal Carol Napier, Lee County Elementary family resource director Sherry Lanham, Lee County Middle and High School principal Debra Smith, Lee County Middle and High School youth services center director Jennifer Wilder, Lee County Head Start director Kim Johnson, and counselors from Kentucky River Community Care, who work with Lee County schools.

Begley is the daughter of Stephen and Linda Begley.