Friday, June 24th, 2011
Teen starts his own food drive for those in need
By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - Delivering food, clothes and gifts to families in need is just another day for 16-year-old Austin Riggs, who has volunteered at Agape Ministries pantry since he was 11 years old.
Now the teen has taken on another project - his own food drive collection named Reach for Two: One for U.S., One for You. The idea is to get customers buying groceries to reach for a second item after picking up one for themselves.
Riggs came up with the idea after Agape officials reported a disappointing food drive collection in May.
"The postal food drive usually collects 8,000-12,000 pounds of food," he said. "This year they only collected 2,000 pounds, and Agape serves 10,000 clients."
Riggs has given several presentations to area businesses and organizations to get them involved. He was able to raise enough money to have banners printed and has secured Kroger and Pantry Pride, both in St. Marys, as locations for his food drop.
Reach for Two begins Saturday with the banners and barrels set up at the entrances of the stores. Customers can place the donations they bought in the barrels as they leave.
If anyone forgets to buy donations when they are shopping, Riggs said the stores will have signs at the registers that say "Did you forget? Reach for Two." Customers also will have the option to donate $2 at the register.
Riggs said he has seen firsthand how many people are in need in the area.
"I'm also a member of GoodFellows here, and we drive to homes in the area to deliver food and gifts every Christmas," he said. "When you go into the homes and see the kids, you want to help more ... Most people are just one job away from needing help themselves, and no one should have to go hungry."
The food collection will continue through July 4.
"That's my birthday, and I wanted that to be my gift," he said.
During the nine days of collections, Riggs will empty the barrels and deliver to Agape, 1220 E. Spring St. His goal is to raise $2,000 and 10,000 pounds of food.
He hopes Reach for Two will become an annual event and continue to grow every year. He also hopes to start a Reach for Two website.
His mother, Barbara Riggs, a post office employee, said she made her son at age 11 help with Agape's post office food drive.
"When kids are little like he was, you just say 'come on, you're helping,' but he just got really into it," she said. "If you start 'em early in volunteerism, it becomes a part of them."
In addition to volunteering with Agape and GoodFellows, Riggs is a scholar athlete at Memorial High School, where he will be a senior. He is a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol, Squadron 231, an air force auxiliary that focuses on leadership and community service.
Riggs' goal after graduation is to attend the Air Force Academy. He currently is taking pilot lessons at Neil Armstrong Airport in New Knoxville, which he is paying for with the money from his part-time job mowing lawns and mulching gardens.
In the months of April and May, Riggs performed more than 64 hours of community service.
"This is a remarkable feat as we are very aware of all the constraints on his time, his school activities, his extracurricular activities, the Civil Air Patrol and much more," Kathryn Bayless, executive director of Agape, wrote in a letter. "We were impressed by this young man when he began volunteering ... and have continued to be impressed through the years."