LAURINBURG – When Director Virginia Ray showed up at Project Inasmuch on Tuesday, she thought the extra cars in the parking lot meant that she had extra volunteers.
Little did she suspect that state and city officials were there to honor her for the legacy that her kind heart has created in the last 12 years.
State Rep. Garland Pierce presented Ray with a certificate of appreciation signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in recognition of her work feeding hungry students in Scotland County.
She coordinates with the 11 schools in the county and volunteers to put together bags filled with items like applesauce, fruit snacks, crackers, milk and juice boxes for children who might not have anything to eat over the weekend.
Pierce praised Ray on behalf of all the children whose lives she had positively impacted.
“She does a great work with this and I’m glad to be a part of celebrating her,” Pierce said.
Ray was genuinely touched and surprised by the honor.
“I thought you were all here to work. We’ve got 800 bags to fill,” Ray said after being presented the award. “I can’t believe it. It’s all so unbelievable. I’m so proud of all the people that help because I couldn’t do this without them and without the people at the school telling us how many hungry children there are.”
Her joke got plenty of laughs, but after the short ceremony was over local dignitaries rolled up their sleeves and started filling bags.
Many of those involved took a few minutes to thank Ray for her work. Board of Commissioners Chair Carol McCall, Laurinburg council member Mary Jo Adams, and Superintendent of Schools Ron Hargrave all spoke glowingly of Ray and her ministry.
“We appreciate you so much,” Hargrave said. “So many children go to bed with a full stomach because of what you do, and it does not go unnoticed.”
She was nominated for the award by Pierce and local community leaders. Laurinburg council member Dee Hammond and Laurinburg-Scotland County Chamber of Commerce President John Ferguson wrote letters of recommendation to Gov. Cooper explaining why she should be recognized.
The project whose name is based on the biblical verse Matthew 25:40 “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” started 12 years ago when Ray got a call from an educator asking for help.
In February of 2006, the principal of I Ellis Johnson reached out to Ray and explained that children were showing up for school on Monday lethargic, unable to concentrate and too tired to work because they had not had anything to eat over the weekend.
Ray stepped up to fill the need.
Every Wednesday, Ray and the volunteers meet at the office on John’s Road to pack the bags. School staff contact Ray with the number of bags needed at each school. Volunteers deliver the packages on Thursday, and teachers send them home with students on Friday.
By the time school lets out for summer the group will have helped more than 1,000 hungry students.
During the summer, the volunteers deliver food and cleaning supplies to the homes of the students.
To volunteer or donate to Project Inasmuch, call Ray at 910-610-5422.