Published 10:55 am Thursday, May 2, 2019

Woman aims to feed those in need

CRAB ORCHARD – Whether it was a recent dream she had about helping the homeless, or life experiences that made her want to pay some favors forward – or a combination of both – one Crab Orchard native is determined to help fill some hungry stomachs in her hometown.

“I’ve grown up here and I’ve watched kind of what the city it’s turned into, really down hill, really huge addiction problem, a lot of homeless, a lot of hungry kids and kids raised by their grandparents or in the system,” she said. “I can’t change the world, but I can throw a stone and make a ripple.”

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Wooten said she had several visitors stop by to take her up on the offer last week, which was the first time she set up with her wagon of free food.

Inside the bags, Wooten packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips and cookies and had a cooler handy filled with cold drinks.

The 17-year-old Crab Orchard native said several curious people stopped by to see what she was up to and, once informed, thanked her for helping the community.

“It’s honestly sad because the people who do stop are really struggling,” she said. “I’ve had several people stop for kids, grandkids, foster kids, that kind of stuff. But a lot of people who are adults are like, ‘Hey is this just for kids or can I have something to eat?’”

It breaks her heart, Wooten said, because these are people that she grew up with and knows.

“It’s people I know and I care about (that are) struggling,” she said. “I hate that people look down on hungry people or addicted people and people that are struggling, and really they just need a hand.”

The goal is to set up with the wagon of food at least twice a week, Wooten said.

“I was just testing the water today to see how much to bring and if people would come,” she said.

And they did.

Homelessness is a subject that hits particularly close to Wooten’s chest.

“My mom was homeless when she was pregnant with me,” she said. “She was an addict and she found out she was pregnant with me and she got sober. If it wasn’t for people helping us, we wouldn’t have made it.”

There’s hope for everybody, Wooten said. Her mother has been sober for 18-and-a-half years, she added.

“I think that’s something Crab Orchard has lost a lot of – hope. If I don’t give hope to people, who’s going to?” she said.