Mark and Virgie Hunter took a tragic event that impacted their lives and turned it into a personal mission that now feeds hungry children in Scioto County, Ohio. Their son, Steven, died suddenly from a heart disorder at the age of 21.
“Everybody loved Steven,” said Mark Hunter, Steven’s father. “Steven was always helping folks. He was always trying to help those who didn’t have the privileges that he had. He was drawn to the child in the wheelchair. He was drawn to the child that was being bullied.”
Devastated by their loss, Mark and Virgie Hunter set out on a mission to carry on Steven’s commitment of helping others. They knew exactly what they needed to do, and that was to setup a fund at their local city school district for kids in need of help. Their county, a rural area southeast of Cincinnati, is still experiencing the lingering effects of the recession. In January 2006, Mark and Virgie established the Steven A Hunter Hope Fund, with the goal of providing goods, services and funds to benefit school age children with financial needs.
“It’s a wonderful community; very hardworking, caring people, but there are just not enough jobs,” said Hunter.
With one in three children at risk of hunger in Scioto County, the Steven A Hunter Hope Fund partnered with the Freestore Foodbank through our Power Pack program. Power Packs are packs of nutritious food given to students each Friday during the school year to ensure they have something to eat on weekends. School officials identify children to take part in the program, as they are most familiar with their circumstances.
“There are students who try to hide food to take home with them,” said Jodi Armstrong, Principal at Green Elementary. “If our teachers see that kind of behavior from students, they are referred for the Power Pack program.”
Over 4,000 children in more than 95 participating schools receive Power Packs from the Freestore Foodbank each week. The Seven A Hunter Hope Fund plays an important part of that, currently helping to distribute about 600 Power Packs each week in all 12 elementary schools in Scioto County.
“When students receive their Power Packs, some of them hug them, as if they’re a stuffed animal or a loved one,” said Armstrong. “That sends a message of gratitude. They are not as hesitant to get on the bus on Friday and are happy to have that food to take home with them.”
“It’s unbelievable that a small child can get so excited over getting a pack of food, but they do because it is that important to them,” said Hunter. “They know that they need it.”
Research shows that children who received enough to eat perform better academically and have increased attendance at school; something that school officials recognize.
“Our goal is to make sure that our students have the best education possible,” said Armstrong. “A part of that is making sure that kids are healthy and safe and that they have their basic needs met before that extension of education can take place. When you care about kids in that extended way, knowing that their bellies are not hungry is a critical part of that.”
An extension made possible in Scioto County, because of one young man’s heart to help others and the determination of his parents to carry on his legacy.
“Steven was a philanthropist,” said Hunter. “He loved his fellow man. We know he would be pleased and probably also asking if we could also help this person or that person over there. After all, it’s what we are called to do.”