TIFTON — While schools are out because of COVID-19, many people and organizations are stepping up to fill any potential food voids. Tift schools are distributing sack lunches throughout the county and Peanut Butter and Jesus has expanded its offerings.
Sunday, even more individuals lent a hand.
Tift students know Billy King, Zac Martin, Andrew Long and Britt Wilson in the classrooms and on the sporting fields, but they probably have not seen them since school dismissed March 16 for at least the end of the month. The four had a chance to reconnect with some of them after partnering with Jimmy John’s to distribute sandwiches to youth.
The idea began when King, who had just gotten coffee from the neighboring Red Owl Coffee in the adjoining building, happened to notice bread being thrown away at Jimmy John’s. The general manager at Jimmy John’s told him it was bread they couldn’t use. That led to further conversation and King talking with Brandi Shinkle, who owns Tifton’s Jimmy John’s.
Shinkle said it was “divine intervention” that everyone encountered each other.
King said he and Long spoke about distributing food. Long is the person who suggested Sunday.
“We figured that since they (children) get food all week, maybe try to get them Sunday,” said King.
“We’re trying to find a way to reach out to these young men and these young women beyond athletics.”
“This is a way they can see us outside of what we normally do,” King said. They want to be there for the kids, he said. “We’re a constant in their lives,” Long said.
King, Long and Martin said they serve as more than coaches at school. They are father figures to many, with some even going as far to refer to them as “daddy” or “granddaddy.”
The profession is more than a classroom or athletic field, King said.
“Teaching is beyond giving them instruction. Teaching is developing a relationship, letting them know you care about them.”
As a business owner, Shinkle said she understands this is a time of struggle for many. “This is hard,” she said. And it goes beyond just business. “This is not just the businesses, the people who have to work. I don’t want to have to lay my employees off… We’re all suffering a little bit together.”
“We have to come together and help each other get through all this,” said Shinkle. “We have to. It’s the only way it’s going to work. I’m going to do my part as long as I can.”