Midtown: Community

Midtown Muse: Enloe High’s Charity Ball will raise money to feed the hungry

They pass each other in the hallway. They sit next to one another in class, entertain audiences from the same stage and play on – or cheer for – the same sports teams.

Enloe High School is home to a food pantry pilot program that aims to help hungry students.

The student council understands its school community’s food-desert status means some kids come to school and go home hungry, and it’s hoping to help change that reality.

Enloe’s student council has committed its 10th Annual Charity Ball fundraiser to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, a hunger-relief organization serving seven counties in and around the Triangle with mobile markets, food pantries, community gardens, urban agriculture training and more to increase sources of and access to healthy food.

This year’s Charity Ball goal is to present a $75,000 check to Inter-Faith at the community dance Dec. 6 at the Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh.

For the students, it’s a real-world education.

“It’s probably the most important type of education – to show them they can change the world with the attitudes they have and all their innovative ideas,” said Trudy Price-O’Neil, an Enloe teacher and the student council’s executive council adviser. “What’s so amazing about working with the kids is they don’t see things as impossible or as daunting as adults do. They believe they can do it.

“They’ve taught me what it’s like to have faith in the good of our community and the people in it; that people do care about people in need in our community,” she added. “It’s beautiful.”

Manthi Bissanayake, a senior class vice president, provided proof. Since 2011, she said, Enloe’s Charity Ball has grown, both in community support and money raised for charity. In 2011, $22,000 went to 1-in-9, a program that aims to fight breast cancer. In 2012, $50,000 went to InterAct. Last year, the group raised $63,000 for SAFEchild.

“It has a real impact on us to know we’re doing something to directly impact people we might be passing in the hallway at school and in our community who might be suffering from hunger,” said Bissanayake, 17. “That’s what makes Charity Ball so special.”

Enloe senior Sean Kurz is in charge of it all.

“We truly have the whole student body involved so everyone’s interests and talents can be utilized to help stop hunger and raise awareness of the issue of hunger in our community and in Wake County,” said Kurz, 17. “It’s really important to us at Enloe that there are opportunities for people to get food when they need it.”

His greatest lesson, Kurz said, is this: “It’s my duty to participate in philanthropy as I continue to grow up and play larger roles in the community,” he said. “That’s what Charity Ball has taught me.”

In the six years Price-O’Neil has served as executive council adviser, she’s watched students learn and lead, and she marvels at their tenacity.

Students spent the summer touring charities before they chose Inter-Faith. They attended a weekend retreat to plan. They spend their lunch periods cold-calling businesses, organizations and individuals to ask for sponsorships and donations. They set up and manage online ticket sales and social media accounts, and make bank deposits.

They blog, too, at http://enloecharityball.blogspot.com/?view=magazine.

Ticket sales – ranging from $30 for general admission to $40 for VIP and $50 for Premium VIP – don’t start until November.

At Enloe, 34.6 percent, or 925 students, get free and reduced-price lunch and could be at risk for hunger. In Wake County, 44,220 children are food insecure, or without access to nutritious food and unsure when they’ll eat again.

In her first of five visits to Enloe, Katie Murray drove the reality home for students. She introduced them to Inter-Faith interns Sazeed Stewart and Mayim Phillips, both 19 and recent high school graduates, who shared their story of hunger and how Inter-Faith led them from food insecurity to now growing and selling their own produce.

“We really want the kids to understand what it is we do, how we’re helping the community their school is in and why we want them to get more involved,” said Murray, the shuttle’s urban agriculture training coordinator. “You can see them start to really care. That’s really cool!”