MOORESVILLE – As a language arts teacher at Lake Norman High School, RoseMary Scheimer is used to reading essays.
But three years ago, one caught her attention.
“In an essay, (a student) wrote that he went home, and he was hungry,” Scheimer said. “And so that got the idea.”
That idea was to start an anonymous food pantry for Lake Norman High School students – and it has since come to fruition.
Scheimer now works with dozens of school administrators, teachers, students and parents to stock a janitor’s closet with food for school lunches and weekend groceries.
Every night, Scheimer packs lunches for five students who have anonymously requested them.
“So they will come in and get their packed lunch from me and usually, like, a little note in it,” Scheimer said. “Just because, it’s more than academics at school, and we’re trying to get these kids to graduate and to want to come to school.”
Lake Norman High has a small percentage of students on free and reduced lunch and is a “very difficult school to walk down the halls in if you have dirty, smelly clothes,” she said.
“Or if you don’t have a little snack, you know. I usually pack a little snack,” Scheimer said. “We’re very fortunate. Which is not a bad thing, it’s just that most of us are very fortunate here.”
In addition to the packed lunches and groceries, the food pantry program also collects Christmas presents and meals, as well as Thanksgiving turkeys, for the students and families it serves.
“So I have probably two rooms in my house full of beautifully wrapped packages every Christmas and deliver them to all of the food pantry families,” Scheimer said.
Before Scheimer began teaching at Lake Norman, she said she had always worked at Title I schools where, she said, “most of the kids were in need of something.”
“The beauty of Lake Norman is that we have the resources here to help the few that are needy,” Scheimer said.
As the only one who knows the names of the students being served, Scheimer plays a big role in making the pantry successful. But she said she is just “one piece” of the whole.
“People help me get the food,” Scheimer said. “People run stuff up here. I have a mom who goes and volunteers to pick up the food, and she brings it to me. I have a club. I have my own husband and children who help me out.”
The club, Food for Families, is run by students and currently has about 10 members. Junior Sydney Cook is one of the co-founders – along with Sydney Walters and Brooke Molbreak – and said she is “so proud” of what the group has accomplished.
“Our members help to maintain and organize the food and hygiene supplies, as well as donating to the pantry from their own pockets,” Cook said by email. “They are hardworking and give their time before, during and after school to help these families in need.”
The services to families extend even beyond food and holiday gifts, with some students getting waived senior and prom ticket fees or provided new coats and socks.
“My first rule on my board is ‘Be Kind,’” Scheimer said. “So like, I can tell my kids, ‘Be kind.’ I can tell my own family, ‘Be kind.’ But if they don’t see you (do it), it doesn’t mean anything. So it’s another way to enforce, ‘Actions speak louder than words.’”