STIRRED with compassion by a hungry man seeking help, a 10-year-old Martins Ferry boy has initiated a project to assist many persons in need.
As a result of seeing a man with a sign asking for food or money, Austin Langford and his mother, Shannon, are involved in the sale of T-shirts to help low-income residents served by The Daily Bread Center, Walnut Street, Martins Ferry.
The message on the T-shirts has the word, "HOPE," in large letters followed by the message, "Fighting Hunger Together."
They discussed Austin's project with the Rev. David Stammerjohn, who heads The Daily Bread Center's board.
Regarding Austin's endeavor as "tremendous," Stammerjohn said, "He's a young man who has seen a problem and has come up with a personal way of addressing the problem." He said that the youth translated his concern for an individual into helping a large group of people.
"We've had people do different kinds of fund-raising (for the center). It's the first project of this kind and the first project that I can remember of someone that age taking on," the minister added.
And it began when a man holding a sign needing help with food or money stirred the youngster's sympathy.
The man with the sign was noticed on a ramp in Bridgeport when Austin and his mother were returning from St. Clairsville.
Then a commercial about T-shirts gave him the idea to sell the shirts to help the hungry.
"He sat down and decided what he wanted the shirts to say," said his mother, who indicated he was distraught about someone going hungry.
Austin, a Buckeye Local fourth grader whose favorite subject is social studies, paid for the initial T-shirts from his savings.
Each shirt costs $12 and may be ordered by calling Austin's mother (740) 298-2658. Small, medium, large and extra large shirts are available. "We can get any size, but it might take longer to order them," she said.
In addition, the T-shirts will be available at the "Picnic in the Park," planned June 8.
Proceeds will go to The Daily Bread Center for help with food and personal items such as toothpaste and paper towels.
"We are averaging about 200 families a month (at the center)," said Stammerjohn. For example, 237 families including 618 individuals received help from the center in January; that included 200 children and 62 senior citizens.
Stammerjohn explained the center is operated through a partnership with 11 partner churches in Martins Ferry involved along with other community members. Clients have to meet certain income qualifications which were set up by the Mid-Ohio Food Bank for those in need.
"Our operating costs run about $4,000 a month; of that, about $3,000 is food cost," noted the minister.
The center, located in Walnut Street near the city building, is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon, except the second Tuesdays of the month when deliveries are received; the first and third Thursdays of the month from 5-7 p.m. and the second and fourth Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
Churches are providing donations - financial as well as food and personal items - for the center, which opened in August of 2011.
"We have strong financial support from the community, partner churches, businesses and community members," noted Stammerjohn. "We have to buy our food supplies mostly from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank and also get significant donations from area businesses."
Donations for the center, but not for ordering T-shirts, may be sent to P.O. Box 416, Martins Ferry, Ohio 43935.
The T-shirt project isn't the only thing that has kept Austin busy. The youth, who wants to be a Marine when he grows up, played flag football for Buckeye Local and has been involved in basketball in the First Christian Church's Upward Sports program.
He also is taking classes to be baptized at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Tiltonsville.
Perhaps, it's not too surprising that he has another goal for the future - he wants to be a volunteer at The Daily Bread Center.
Pokas can be reached at email@example.com.