York Co. Juvenile Justice kids collecting food for hungry

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comDecember 11, 2012 

  • More information People can donate to the drive, which ends Friday, by taking nonperishable food items to the York County DJJ office on 1070 Heckle Blvd., Suite 203 in Rock Hill.

Charly Duncan and Nikki Page are two teenage girls who don’t have much use for a shiny red bicycle.

Yet, both Duncan and Page, who after fighting in school are now part of the Department of Juvenile Justice, find themselves on the prowl to collect as many canned goods as possible to see their names entered into a drawing for the prized bike that’s stored at York County’s DJJ office on Heckle Boulevard.

For the first time this year, DJJ is collecting nonperishable canned goods to distribute to four York County charities for the holidays. The drive, which started Nov. 1, ends Friday.

Aiming to become part of a “community of givers,” DJJ teamed up with the county solicitor’s office, Coca Cola and Best Buy to find a “creative” way to bolster donations that are common this time of year, said Amahl Bennett, DJJ director.

Children and teens under DJJ’s supervision are participating in the drive with hopes of winning the bicycle, donated by Coca Cola. Once all the food is collected, Family Court Judge David Guyton on Dec. 18 will draw one name from a hat and award the bike to the youth who collected the most cans, Bennett said.

“Well, this is the season of giving and a lot of the kids that we work with aren’t accustomed to giving,” he said. “They have, in essence, victimized others in some form or fashion. We want to instill in them why it’s important, particularly this time of year, to help the community.”

Ask Bev Carroll, director for the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen – one of four charities slated to benefit from the drive – and every time of year is the right time to give.

Hunger, she said, is “a 12-month situation.”

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the soup kitchen on Crawford Road, which feeds 75 to 80 people a day, is “inundated” with donations, she said.

But after December, “the hungry and homeless are forgotten,” Carroll said. “It’s important (people) give” year-round.

Many do. Most of the soup kitchen’s food supplies are provided by Second Harvest Food Bank. Volunteers staff the soup kitchen five days a week, and businesses and individuals often support the kitchen financially, Carroll said.

“York County is a very generous place to live,” she said. “Our guests never go without.”

Neither has 16-year-old Charly Duncan, a Northwestern High student who got in trouble for fighting.

“I always waste food,” she said. “I just wish I could give it to someone else. Not everybody has food. I took that for granted.”

Before the drive, she said she wasn’t active in volunteer work or fundraisers.

“It’s Christmas. I know there are people that have less than I do,” she said. “If I were in that position, I would want somebody to care about me.”

Nikki Page, who lives with her grandmother on the Catawba Indian Reservation, has called family members and solicited donations in her neighborhood. She estimates she’s collected 57 cans so far.

But the possible prize for her persistence is pretty irrelevant, the 17-year-old said. “I don’t even ride bicycles.”

“She said that wasn’t the principle of it; the principle was helping the people,” said Page’s 63-year-old grandmother, Jackie Sanders, who said this time last year, Page could care less about her attitude or academics.

When she was 13, she got in trouble for fighting at school. Later, while a student at Rock Hill High, she got caught using drugs.

“I used to not care about what I did,” she said.

A couple of years in DJJ and things have turned around. She’s now working on her GED and plans to enroll in a veterinary college in January.

Bennett, the DJJ director, stressed that “somebody’s always in need” and encouraged to donate to the drive.

Want to help?

The Department of Juvenile Justice will distribute food to the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen in Rock Hill, God’s Kitchen in Clover, PATH in York and the Fort Mill Care Center from Dec. 18 to Dec. 21.

Jonathan McFadden (803) 329-4082

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