We are often defined by our heritage. For Joyce White, feeding the hungry is as much a hereditary trait as the color of her eyes. During the Great Depression, her grandmother provided a warm meal and safe haven to hungry hobos, who painted her door to let others know that they would be welcomed. In that same tradition, Joyce, a retired school teacher and founder of Food for Friends, was named the RecognizeGood Legend for June 2012 thanks to her tireless efforts to serve and feed the homebound members of the Bartlett community.
Together with a few close friends and volunteers, Joyce cooks and delivers meals to over 120 friends in need every Friday, as well as more sustainable groceries during the week. Equally important, she provides a social outlet for many that they might not otherwise have. “She’s the epitome, to me, of the two most important of the Ten Commandments – the First and the Second. I don’t think anyone else that I know loves their neighbor and treats them as herself more than Joyce White,” said Reverend John Roark, Pastor of the First Methodist Church of Bartlett. Speaking at a ceremony honoring Ms. White at the Bartlett City Hall on Wednesday, June 27, Roark declared, “If you want to see a Christian in action, follow Joyce around for one day”.
Just two years ago, Joyce began cooking for a few friends whose limited mobility required them to rely on
easy-to-prepare food for all or most of their nutritional needs. Many of these friends are over 70 and have lived in the same tiny field homes most of their lives, leaving them beyond the reach of most social programs. Today, Joyce works closely with local farmers, churches, civic groups, medical and health organizations to meet the needs of her growing operation.
Mayor Norris Ivy presented Joyce with a $1000 Pay-It-Forward check, which she will put right back into the hungry mouths of her community. “First of all, that thousand dollars will buy a lot of potatoes and onions,” said Joyce.
An amazingly selfless woman, Joyce wanted her message to be heard. “If you’re 18, or 80 (as I’m soon to be) or over 80, age doesn’t make a difference. If you have it in your heart, you can reach out and help somebody,” she said. “You will make a difference in their life, and when you do I guarantee you it will make a difference in yours.”
Joyce is a model for community service and citizenship. Not only does she provide a good meal to those in need, but she gives them a chance to enjoy it with the company of an old friend.
“We get so caught up in what’s going on around the world, sometimes we forget that the need is next door,” said Mr. Ivy. Indeed, one needn’t look too far or they might miss Joyce, quietly working to keep her community happy and healthy.