Rhonda Cagle

Once Upon A Time

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Strangely enough, I feel compelled to begin today’s musings with the words, “Once upon a time…” Even at the ripe old age of 42, these words still coax a smile from my lips. They form some of the earliest memories of my childhood and served as imagination’s gateway to fairytale lands and adventures filled with princesses in peril and dashing princes rushing headlong into danger on magnificent white horses. So real were those worlds and words, I became convinced at an early age that everyone’s life story should begin with the words, “Once upon a time,” and end with, “and they lived happily ever after.”

It sucks to grow up and realize that beautiful princesses sometimes turn into lonely, exiled queens and mighty white steeds eventually become sway-backed old hacks. Somewhere in between your first kiss and first child, you discover Prince Charming’s inability to put down the toilet seat and realize that stately old castle is, in reality, a drafty, leaky, crumbling money-pit. These are the tragedies of growing up and out of an instinctual tendency to romanticize the surrounding world. It’s sad – even for a 42-year-old. But it’s downright cruel when life’s hard lessons begin before childhood ends.

I am passionate about the right of children to be just that – children. Carefree. Imaginative. Innocent. It breaks my heart that too many of them never get the chance to thrill to the hope of “once upon a time,” let alone have a shot at “happily ever after.”

Yesterday, I once again came face-to-face with that reality as I sat in a meeting with a group of volunteers forming a partnership with a local school. We were there because almost 20% of the children in attendance don’t have enough to eat. They often miss meals at nights and on weekends. This group of vigilante volunteers has the audacity to believe that children going to bed hungry in this, the most prosperous country on earth, is unconscionable, not to mention unacceptable. So we’re doing something about it.

For quite awhile, I listened as the principal described the needs of the children – dozens of them literally homeless; 33-percent of them so transient, they won’t even complete a single school year at that location; more than 97-percent of the students qualifying for the federal free and reduced lunch program due to poverty. And then this principal said something that stunned me. “We make hard decisions all the time. If you don’t have enough money to feed all of our kids, we understand. We’ll appreciate whatever you can give and decide who gets to eat and who doesn’t.”

Stop and consider the enormity of those words. Please put yourself in the position of having to choose which hungry children eat and which ones don’t. Now you know what I felt like sitting across the table from that principal. But even that is nothing compared to what the children feel everyday as hunger eclipses the promise of their young lives and starves any hope of “happily ever after.”

More than anything, I want to be able to look that principal in the eyes and tell him hunger isn’t an option. I want to turn the page in the lives of these children and create that once upon a time moment when hunger is turned into hope.

What about you?

Right now, Kitchen on the Street – an all-volunteer non-profit agency – is feeding more than 280 children every week at nine local schools. We’d like to add these children to that list. With your help, it’s possible.

On Saturday, March 6th at 9 a.m., we’re holding our annual fundraising hike at North Mountain Park in Phoenix. We’re committed to raising $5,000 so we can turn hunger into hope in the lives of children. If you live in the Phoenix area, please register for the hike and/or give a gift that will feed local children. Your gift is tax-deductible and there is no greater return on investment than knowing you’ve turned hunger into hope in the life of a child!

In two weeks, I’ll be meeting again with this principal. I’ll walk down the halls of the school and look into the eyes of children who cannot envision the possibility of consistent meals. He’s going to ask me how many of them we’ll be able to feed. I’m praying I’ll be able to answer, “All of them.” That’s the happily ever after for which I’m praying.

To learn more about the Dennis Cagle Hike for Hunger benefitting Kitchen on the Street or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit http://www.kitchenonthestreet.org.

  1. Very touching article Rhonda, I wish I was there to be involved in the walk. But I’ll do what I can by way of donation thru Kitchen on the Street. I know my $ are spent wisely and carefully through that organization – they are truly impacting lives. Thank you for reminding me that my problems are but shadows compared to those hungry children on the streets of Phoenix. Bless you!

    • Maura, as you know, we’re an all-volunteer agency with no salaries involved. Since it costs us just $5.73 to feed a child for a weekend, you can imagine how far every dollar goes in feeding children. Your prayers and support are so appreciated as we feed kids in the name of Christ.

  2. What a wonderful organization! Hope and pray all goes well and you are able to meet your goals. If I lived closer I would join you in the hike!

    • Thanks, Margo! Kitchen on the Street was inspired by Dennis just before he passed away. It’s especially meaningful that KOS continues his legacy of caring for children and students. Your prayers and good thoughts are appreciated as we work to feed hungry children in his memory!

  3. It is hard to believe just how huge the problem is. When I was in middle school, I went to school early to hand out the free lunch passes to the kids who needed them. I was amazed even then in our middle class neighborhood how many kids needed them. I have lots of friends who are currently struggling. They are from middle class homes even but the economy is killing them and they make just a little too much for help but not enough to get help. I know that there are some businesses who are willing to contribute food. I know that there is a Trader Joes in Nashville that give tons of food to the local ministry that feeds the homeless… they give the stuff that is just going out of date but is still good. Also 7/11 has a policy of doing a similar thing too with their baked goods at least. It might be worth them checking with them. It’s great that you guys are doing the fundraiser. Do they have a way to contribute via credit card on their site?

    • Linda, we’ve had good support from the local stores with Costco, Sam’s Club, etc. helping to support us with the non-perishable, child-friendly food we need for our backpack program. We’ve actually grown to the point that local stores can’t fill our orders so we’re now ordering in bulk directly from Hormel, which helps keep our costs to a minimum.

      And what you’ve described in terms of middle class families no longer making it is what we’re seeing in our program. One family that was always involved in giving help and resources away is now relying on us to help feed their children. Dad got sick and died and mom’s salary isn’t enough to cover everything. She’s described how incredulous she is that her family must now rely on the same help they once gave to others just to survive.

      People who want to contribute online can do so through the Pay Pal link set up on Kitchen on the Street’s website. Or, they can mail checks via the address on the site. Thanks for caring and asking!

  4. Rhonda,
    Palamino Elementary happens to be our neighborhood school so it will be super easy for me to volunteer once I get and recover from my surgery. I saw Megan and your dad (I think??) In the video – excellent video. Is it on YouTube so that I can post it on my facebook?
    God Bless you Rhonda !

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