Last year, we featured two hunger heroes in the winter edition of our publication Harvest. These two individuals once relied on food assistance, and know what it’s like to worry about getting enough meals for their families. After life improved, they decided to help their hungry neighbors. Today, they continue to give back by helping the Food Bank solve hunger for those in need in their respective communities. Robin Martin-Lawson, catering manager at Travinia restaurant in Charlottesville, is holding a fundraiser called “Feed the Team, Feed the Town.” Proceeds from Travinia’s special athletic menu will benefit the Food Bank. Dick Reese continues to work for Rockbridge Area Relief Association (RARA) where he helps clients receive food and access other types of needed assistance. On a recent Saturday, we visited RARA where a special pet food distribution was taking place. Clients with pets were not only able to get food for themselves, but also for their beloved animal companions. Pets are often the only source of comfort and support for food insecure clients who are hurting financially. Read the article below to learn more about their journeys.
Crossing Over and Giving Back
Stories of Change and Impact
From Client to Advocate
When young people ask him if they should go into theatre, Dick Reese tells them, “If anything can stop you, let it.” The challenges of life as an actor didn’t stop him from honing his craft. Reese attended the University of Tennessee on a wrestling scholarship. When he blew out his knee, he turned to the stage.
“Theatre makes me feel alive,” said Reese. “Wearing costumes, becoming someone else, and pre tending that a stage is Denmark in the 5th century — you know it’s not real, but you allow it to happen,” he said, referring to Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet.
After years of traveling around the country and beyond as a working actor, Reese pursued a Masters in Fine Arts at the urging of his wife, Barbara, who he met when he worked for a theatre company in Canton, Ohio. Later, he accepted an offer to build and teach technical theatre courses at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke. Surviving as an adjunct faculty member was as challenging as surviving as an actor, he soon found.
When a friend told him about the Food Bank’s partner, Rockbridge Area Relief Association (RARA) in Lexington, Reese was grateful for the tip and for the food he received during the lag time before he was paid for his teaching duties.
After a semester, the school began dismantling his program. Reese was teaching just two courses. Seeing no improvement on the horizon, he
once again turned to RARA — this time for better employment. As pantry manager, Reese now uses his training as an actor to communicate
with clients and put them at ease. “When individuals come to the pantry, they often feel like they have failed,” said Reese. “The whole idea is to make them laugh, and I’m good at that.”
A Food Bank Program Inspires a Hunger Hero
One hour east of Lexington, in Charlottesville, a single mom enjoys her role as catering manager for Travinia Restaurant. But times weren’t
always easy for Robin Martin-Lawson. After her marriage ended, she found it hard to go from a two-earner household to being the primary provider for her two sons.
A layoff and an on-the-job injury also left her out of work for a while.
“I had a hard time finding another job,” said Martin-Lawson, who has a master’s degree. “I was either overqualified for available positions, or there were too many applicants for a limited number of openings.”
Before she began working for Travinia, Martin-Lawson relied on the Food Bank’s Family Backpack Program to make sure there was food on the table. She’s glad the program was there for her family when she needed it.
“This program allowed us to have food through the weekend and, in some cases, during the week,” she said.
Martin-Lawson served as a teacher and mental health professional before realizing the difference she could make in her community through catering and the restaurant business. Today, she not only manages catering but she’s also a member of the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce. She joined to advance Travinia’s community outreach goals.
“It’s been meaningful,” Martin-Lawson said. “Each person is put on the earth to make a difference somehow. I do what I love, and offer help.”
Last year, Travinia participated in Charlottesville’s bi-annual Restaurant Week, a culinary celebration that benefits the Food Bank. Martin- Lawson also planned a holiday food drive with participating stores within the Stonefield complex where Travinia is located. Her efforts have
helped raise awareness of hunger in the Blue Ridge area.
Could This Be You?
Clients turned advocates, volunteers, and supporters — we often receive donations from people who once relied on our services. Many individuals who join our cause do so because at one time they walked in the same shoes as our food-insecure neighbors.
Whether or not you’ve turned to a food pantry or food bank to get you through tough times, it’s not difficult to imagine how easily “that could be me.”
Will you match their generosity and join the fight against hunger?
Harvest, winter 2016, issue 1