Why Giving Back Matters – By Erin Mitchell

Need is not always loud or visible. You may never cross paths with it, or you might without knowing it. Need does not always make itself known, even when it’s right in front of you. Need is easily ignored if you don’t live with it, love someone who lives with it, or go out of your way to see it. Now more than ever, what true and urgent need needs is a voice and a presence, a seat at the table to be seen, heard, and empowered; especially for those who cannot speak for themselves.  

When I first moved to Chapel Hill, I saw a quaint college town with a stellar academic reputation, an abundance of enthusiasm for basketball, and a host of outstanding restaurants. I came to know Carrboro as a haven for artistic, creative, and conscious people, and even more great, unique dining options. After a couple of months, I knew the names of streets, my favorite restaurants, and the local shops that I frequent, and I thought that that was all there was to being a part of a community.

Therefore, I was surprised to learn about TABLE and the need for such an organization in what I knew to be an affluent area. I was disconnected from this community; living in it but knowing nothing about it, with no idea how much need I was blind to. When I read more about TABLE’s mission and the facts and statistics about child hunger in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, I was shocked.

I never could have imagined how many people in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area scrape by with empty cupboards and empty plates. I had no idea how many kids wake up and go to school with empty bellies when there just isn’t enough to go around.

After I began volunteering and interning at TABLE, I would ask my friends who have lived in Chapel Hill and Carrboro their whole lives if they knew there was such rampant need in this community. Did they know, for instance, that at least 1 in 3 children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are at risk for going hungry over weekends and holidays when subsidized school lunches aren’t available to them? The people I have talked to had no notion of the many children in our community whose need may not always be visible to us upon first glance, but who matter nonetheless.

I now know there is a need for programs like TABLE’s Weekend Meal Backpack Program, which delivers emergency food aid to over 650 children every single week. There is an urgent need that many wonderful and generous volunteers and donors help us meet. They donate their valuable time, efforts, and helping hands, and they donate food for our kids.

Because of TABLE, I have been able to become more in touch with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, and I am astounded every day by the overwhelming support and simple kindness of so many of the people who call Chapel Hill home, from university students to families and donors and volunteers up to one- hundred-years-old! Volunteering at TABLE has allowed me to give back to the community that I live in, learn more about the people who inhabit it, to know it, and to become a real part of it. It has enabled me to look at a problem from a new perspective, recognize it, and do my part to help solve it. The act of giving back has given so much back to me — a sense of community, a fresh perspective, and the knowledge that I am contributing to something greater than myself.

This holiday season, I wanted to personally thank all of the volunteers and donors of past, present, and future who make TABLE’s programming possible, and who empower and uplift this community and never turn a blind eye to an unseen need.

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