Paula Perkins,38,a coordinator with Partners in Education,and Leslie Schaffner,52,a director with the Priddy Foundation,won a regional Jefferson Award for their efforts to curb hunger in the area,after raising money to provide more than 320,000 meals to people in need.
“In Wichita falls,one in six people are food insecure,meaning they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from,” Perkins said. “Or they don’t have an adequate amount of food to sustain nourishment.
For their efforts,both women got to spend time in Washington,visiting memorials and meeting their senators.
“We hit the ground running,” Perkins said.
Schaffner said one of their first stops was the Jefferson Memorial.
“We wanted to make sure that we went there this time because of the Jefferson Awards. So it was really a memorable stop for both of us because of that,” she said.
In an interview and at the dinner both spoke about their work.
“One in four children,” she said. “It’s an issue many people don’t even realize is a problem in America,” Schaffner said.
“Nobody wears a T-shirt that says ‘I’m Hungry,’” she said.
Perkins and Schaffner raised money for the meals through an Empty Bowls event,a national grassroots organization,which – according to its website – aims to raise money and awareness of a growing epidemic.
Brady Tanner,national director of the Jefferson Awards,said the program was started in 1972 by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and others to highlight and recognize outstanding work of individuals in their own communities – people like Perkins and Schaffer.
“Hunger’s always been a hot button issue to me,” Schaffner said,“Because we live in one of the richest countries in the world,and we are more advanced than anyone else,and we still have people in our own neighborhoods that are hungry.
“So often that issue gets overlooked for things that are more visible to the average person,” she said. “But this is a growing issue,and the face of hunger in America is changing because of the economy and lowered wages and things like that and so we have to be prepared for that.”
Reach reporter Memet Walker at [email protected] or 202-326-9867. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.