Story by Karen Petit
Nothing could stop the music – or the enthusiasm to raise funds for Lander University’s Bear Necessities Food Pantry.
COVID-19 restrictions may have forced the rescheduling twice of the Music for Meals benefit, but on a perfect fall evening in October the event proved a success. Live music and an “all you can eat” selection of barbecue and oysters drew an enthusiastic crowd to the Lander Equestrian Center for the event.
Plans for the fundraiser, sponsored by Leadership Greenwood, were nearly two years in the making, said Dr. Boyd Yarbrough, Vice President for Student Affairs at Lander University.
“We rescheduled Music for Meals twice because of the pandemic. To see the event come to a fruition brought true joy to our hearts. We are ecstatic about the success of this first year of Music for Meals,” said Yarbrough, an alumnus of the Leadership Greenwood program, which prepares participants to address vital issues in the community and meet future challenges.
Before the pandemic, Yarbrough had been working with Lander faculty, staff and students on the issue of food insecurity among college students, a problem that is widespread throughout the United States. The University formed a task force to examine the level of need at Lander and find solutions. The result was the opening of the Food Pantry in August 2020.
Melanie Darley, a Lander alumna who attended the event with her husband, John, said the seriousness of food insecurity among college students was surprising to her.
“But the problem is widespread, and people don’t talk about it,” said Darley, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Lander in 2001. “I commend Lander for tackling the problem and making it known in our community.”
Darley, an owner of Rainbow Antiques and Interiors, said the Food Pantry is a great resource for students. “I’m proud of my University for doing this.”
John Darley, who was in Leadership Greenwood with Yarbrough, said, “We really wanted to focus on solving a specific need in our community. This was the perfect project.”
Darley, who earned his degree in environmental science in 2004 and is employed at Lonza, said, “Food is a basic need for all of us – and certainly for students who often are trying to work and go to school. Many of them, especially because of the pandemic, are struggling.”
Music for Meals was an opportunity for Tina Lensch, a Realtor at Re/Max in Greenwood, and her friends to support their community. “Lander is our University, and it is vital that we support our college students in need. As an agency and as individuals in this agency, we are part of the community, and we always want to be supportive of the people here.”
Since students returned in August, the number of students seeking the Food Pantry’s services has increased, Yarbrough said.
“Last week, we served 105 students, which is the largest number we have served since we opened a year ago,” he said. “We also continue to look to expand our services and programs to support other needs of our students. For instance, we are opening a clothing closet for students to be able to obtain professional clothes for interviews, internships and jobs.”
Funds from the Oct. 9 benefit will be used to support the ongoing operations of Lander’s Food Pantry. “We have a cooler that is in need of repair. We have added more shelving to accommodate more food. We also supplement the food donations we receive from the Greenwood Food Bank with fresh food,” Yarbrough said.
Plans for future Music for Meals fundraisers are underway, he said.
“This first event was tremendous success and was designed to be repeated on an annual basis,” he said. “In fact, our Leadership Greenwood team already has met, and we are committed to doing this annually.”