We 'can' help!

June 3, 2016

Former JCCC student Laura Pulliam and her Girl Scouts help JCCC food pantry

When alumna Laura Pulliam was searching for a service project for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, she picked the food pantry at Johnson County Community College.

The reason was simple, she said. In her first summer as a student at JCCC, the pantry helped her and her family through a rough patch. “I remember standing in the pantry thinking, ‘When I get a chance, I’m going to help out, because that’s important.’”

Other adult leaders of Girl Scout Service Unit 672 had never heard of the JCCC food pantry, Pulliam said, but they quickly got behind the idea. She also wanted to show her troop – 13 girls with the Daisy designation, ages 5 to 7 – the possibility of college.

“Some of these girls live incredibly close to the college, and yet they’ve never been here,” she said. “I wanted to show them around and say, ‘Look, did you know you can go here when you’re still in high school?’” 

Getting to three figures

Pulliam’s personal goal was 100 cans. In addition to her own troop, nine other troops also collected donations.

She said she’s sure a last-minute donation got them over their goal, but she doesn’t know the final count. When she tried counting, the girls in the troop kept moving the cans around. “I tried,” she said, laughing. “I was like, ‘Hey, put those back here.’ I just gave up trying to count.”

The girls brought the donations to campus, and Pulliam led them on a tour of the buildings and outdoor sculptures. “They still talked about the visit at the end of the year,” she said. “It really stuck with them.”

The other leaders liked the project, too, she said, and they’ve decided to donate again next year. They’ll try for more cans in addition to personal products such as toothpaste and deodorant.

“When you don’t have money, it’s not only food you can’t afford. It’s the basic necessities of life,” Pulliam said.

A look back

She speaks from experience. In her trip to the JCCC food pantry, she took tuna, she remembers, and some cereal. Her husband was working, but Laura was forgoing an income to concentrate on her studies and their children.

“I remember I wanted protein,” she said. “That’s why I went for tuna…but I didn’t want to take too much, either. There were three ladies running it at the time, and they were really, really kind.” Currently, the pantry is run by members of the JCCC Model United Nations.

More and more

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, more than 200 colleges now have campus food pantries. As students deal with rising tuition costs and stagnant wages, they often consider quitting school to feed themselves and their families.

“I think this (pantry) is something that the college should be proud of,” Pulliam said.

Her Daisies received a special patch from the Girl Scouts for sorting the canned goods before donating them. “They were so excited,” she said. “We can do it again, I told them, and make it even bigger.”