One Troy student went above and beyond for a school project, accomplishing more than just getting an “A” on his homework.
While working on an assignment to do something to help others, third-grader Ben Ashton knew he wanted to do something to help other kids.
“I did Buddy Bags,” Ben said. “It helps kids that don’t have food for the weekend and it gives them lunch, breakfast and dinner.”
When Ben had decided he wanted to help fellow youth with his project, his mom pointed him in the direction of Buddy Bags. He started asking family and friends for help, and put the word out to his neighborhood about what he was up to. People in the community jumped in to help: His cousin took him to Krogers for one shopping spree, and Billy and Kristy Mayhall with STL Youth Sorts Outreach took him to Aldis for another. Cub Scout Pack 389, Divine Homes and his neighbors and family members all came out to support Ben.
His goal had been to fill the back of his dad’s pickup truck, but it was raining when all the food had to be loaded up.
“He filled up the back of my minivan and the whole inside big cab of the truck, and the front seat,” said Deanna Ashton, Ben’s mom.
Amy Porter, director of elementary curriculum and Buddy Bags facilitator for the Lincoln County School District, said the donation was more that a pickup trucks-worth of food. The foods Buddy Bags asks for are easy-to-prepare meals, like ramen noodles, fruit cups, pop tarts and the makings for PB&J sandwiches.
“We try and give the kids things that they can prepare for themselves at home, because a lot of times if they don’t have the food at home, they may also not have a parent at home who’s willing to prepare their food or who is working a lot and can’t prepare that food,” Porter said.
Buddy Bags services around 400 children every weekend from kindergarten to 12th grade, sending them home with enough food for two breakfasts, lunches, dinners and a pair of snacks for the off-school days.
The program is supported by a large number of community businesses who collect donations, and it receives food and monetary donations from other sources as well.
However Porter said the months at the beginning of a year usually feature a lull in donations following the generous giving that comes at the end of the year, making Ben’s late-January contribution all the more welcome.
“Christmas time, lots of people are very generous,” Porter said. “So we get lots of donations around holiday time, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, but that’s definitely the peak of our donations.”
When asked, Ben guessed the total on the food was “a total amount of about $600.”
“You help kids that don’t have food, and it feels good,” Ben said about Buddy Bags. He said the project was hard, but that he feels “good” now that it’s over.
“He’s already looking forward to next year, doing it again,” Deanna said. Porter said Ben’s actions show anyone can help to keep local kids fed.
“You don’t have to be a big company to make a difference, you don’t have to have a lot of money to make a difference, you just have to do something to make a difference, and that’s what Ben did,” Porter said.