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Giving girls: Girls on the Run members donate to Main Street Mission

By David Freeze

For the Salisbury Post

CHINA GROVE — Monday afternoon was the first of two big events this week for the Girls on the Run program at Enochville Elementary School. All 23 girls and their leaders had been collecting canned goods for Main Street Mission in China Grove. They arrived on a bus to deliver the cans and to help out in the food pantry by sorting them.

Anne Corriher, executive director of Main Street Mission, told the girls how much she appreciated their efforts.

“The canned goods that you collected will go right back out to those that need them, especially during the holidays,” Corriher said. She also reminded the girls of Main Street Mission’s slogan, “One Can Do More.”

“Every can help somebody,” she added.

Food Pantry Manager Frank Mano organizes food storage and volunteers for the mission. He emphasized that some foods are more popular for the food distribution programs during the year. These include vegetables, peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, soups, coffee, bread, meat and desserts. Hygiene items are always needed too.

“We just gave out 400 turkeys, complete with stuffing, vegetables and potatoes over the Thanksgiving week,” Mano said. “All of this was possible because of generous donations. Each family served can get a box of food once a month or more depending on specific needs.”

The girls who participate in Girls on the Run are third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. They meet twice a week for 12 consecutive weeks.

“I enjoy Girls on the Run where we learn to work together,” said Luciana Depaulo, a fourth-grader. “Collecting the cans was a great way to show kindness to others. Today is special because we got to come here to Main Street Mission and hear how our cans will be used. It’s better because we are here to help with friends.”

Others wanted to know how Main Street Mission works, including Serenity Parnell, fifth-grader.

“People need to know that we care for them, that they can get breakfast and dinner when they need it,” she said. “It is my first time here, but I will be back. We have lots of cans at our house including vegetables. I love greens, cabbage and Brussel sprouts.”

Third-grader Rachel Newack added, “Not everyone can get all the food that they need. They store a lot of food here. I will continue to bring cans now that I know how.”

The girls collected 743 pounds of canned goods. Girls on the Run leader Alexa Shanklin said the group does service projects each spring and fall.

“We asked the girls what they wanted to do, and this is the result,” Shanklin said. “This makes it real, and they know what it means to serve.”

Shanklin is a second-grade teacher and an accomplished runner, competing in half marathons and on the Blue Ridge Relay team called the Red Hot Mamas.

“I enjoy running and miss the students when they leave my class. This way, I get to see them again by volunteering for Girls on the Run,” she said. “Being a girl of this age is hard, and I encourage them for positive change. I enjoy the personal experiences, talking with them in a more casual setting and as a mentor. The girls learn to trust us.”

Other coaching volunteers include Christy Belk, Natalie Childers, Sabra Depaulo, Erin Kelly, Elizabeth Beaver and Teia Goodnight.

Shanklin was quick to thank the other volunteer coaches who help Girls on the Run at Enochville. She said the program — going spring and fall since 2011 — was supposed to be limited to 15 girls at a time, “but we ended up with 23 because of the quality of our volunteers.”

On Saturday, Shanklin and her group will experience the final goal of their program, a 5K run that starts at Catawba College “that allows the girls to prove that they can run the distance.”

“It is a celebration of sorts for the girls, their families and the coaches,” Shanklin said.

But first, they celebrated another aspect of Girls on the Run — giving back.

“At Main Street Mission, we appreciate the efforts by the girls to collect canned goods for us. Thanks very much to the administration and teachers at Enochville Elementary for allowing all the girls to come see our facility. They got to participate in our food pantry, which often breeds more volunteers. We have lots of students come back to help out. By doing this, they enhance their education and increase their own awareness of the community,” said Corriher.

Main Street Mission is open four times a week at 306 South Main Street in China Grove for food distribution and other programs. Find out more at mainstreetmission.org or by calling 704-855-2909.

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