Editorial: A Hope charity’s refreshing success

Hope residents and students hold a prayer circle at Hope Town Square as part of the Students’ Fund of Hope’s fifth anniversary on Aug. 6.

A root beer float sure does hit the spot.

Those heady drinks that began the Students’ Fund of Hope five years ago were served up once again as the charity marked its fifth anniversary with a celebration on the Hope Town Square on Aug. 6. The floats were a sweet reminder of how a community has tapped into its generous, giving spirit to help those who could use it.

Students’ Fund of Hope founder and president Whitney Budd had the idea for a root beer float stand five years ago, and she hoped to raise a few hundred bucks to help kids whose school lunch accounts were depleted. In just a couple of hours, her stand had made $8,800 — enough to pay off $6,000 worth of negative lunch accounts that had been headed to small claims court.

To say the community has bought into the mission of SFOH and kept the momentum going would be an understatement. For instance, just in June, the Hauser High School boys basketball team took part in a free throw competition that netted more than $21,000 for the charity.

In its five-year history, with the help of the local community, SFOH has raised an estimated $310,000. Budd, who said her own humble childhood contributed to her desire to want to help kids in her community, declines to take credit for SFOH’s success.

“This is a group effort and namely, a community effort that has become the baby of so many here in our town,” she told The Republic’s Jana Wiersema. “And without their donations and support, there’s just no way the fund would be what it is.”

The Students’ Fund of Hope works to ease the financial burden of students and families in the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. in numerous ways, including lunch money, clothing, hygiene items, tragic event relief, food, shelter, utilities, counseling and abuse prevention curriculum.

The nonprofit also has placed “blessing boxes” in Hope and Hartsville containing nonperishable food items and household sundries. “Take what you need, give what you can,” the boxes say.

“I knew that Hope was a place that saw their neighbor and could step in if families needed assistance, because I received it firsthand as a child here,” Budd said. “And so I knew that there were people here willing, able and more than happy to help, there just wasn’t that outlet.”

Students’ Fund of Hope in five years has become that outlet — a local institution that has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of students and their families. It’s remarkable what a few dedicated and generous people can do, and you can learn more about the organization, volunteer, donate or find information about SFOH’s upcoming events on its website, studentsfundofhope.org.

Perhaps most remarkable, SFOH makes this audacious statement on its website: “There has yet to be an essential need unmet.”

We’ll drink a root beer float to that.