A week’s great Durham happenings

Sara Stephens helps fellow volunteers collect items to create meal and reading kits for Durham area students on June 21, 2017, in Durham, NC.
Sara Stephens helps fellow volunteers collect items to create meal and reading kits for Durham area students on June 21, 2017, in Durham, NC. gturner@heraldsun.com

Another week is in the record books, as the sportscasters say, with its usual discouraging mixture of mayhem and policy debacles like the Senate’s plan to replace Obamacare with big cuts to Medicaid and big tax cuts for the wealthy.

You’re forgiven if you are dismayed.

But there’s still much to celebrate around here.

For starters, how about a shout out for those nearly 100 volunteers at Durham Central Park Wednesday morning, packing 1,500 weekend meal and reading kits for Durham-area youngsters. The volunteers were part of the United Way of the Greater Triangle’s “Day of Action,” an annual effort to do good works by capitalizing on the inclination of young men and women today to make civic contributions with one-off, sharply focused contributions of time and their abundant energy.

Many volunteers throughout the Day of Action came from prominent local companies, eager to make a difference in a concrete, palpable way. For those who bemoan the “bowling alone” ethos of recent years, a decline in traditional civic clubs, for instance, and yes, showing up on Election Day, it’s a reminder we should acknowledge the enormous benefit of people rolling up sleeves and making a direct impact on our social challenges.

The volunteers at Central Park Wednesday morning knew they were making a definable difference on a critical problem. When school’s out, the free or reduced-price lunch or breakfast that many low-income children receive at school is gone. That leaves hungry hours, stress on their families’ already straitened finances or both.

“Childhood hunger does not take a break over the summer,” Amber Simmons told The Herald-Sun’s Tyler Roush. She should know – she’s child hunger program supervisor for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. The shuttle benefited from the volunteers’ packing food for 400 children in less than an hour.

Each child’s kit was calculated to provide seven meals over the course of four weeks. The need is stark: One in four Durham children live in a home with an income below the poverty level.

The volunteers were doing noble work that should serve as a model to us all.

On another level, the special nature of this community was captured by Shirley Caesar’s selection to be on NBC’s new show “Little Big Shots: Forever Young.” Caesar, pastor of Mt. Calvary Word Of Faith Church in Raleigh, is a Durham native who once served on the City Council here.

Later this summer, Caesar will receive her 12th Grammy Award, this a Lifetime Achievement Special Merit Award.

Said Caesar of learning she received the award: “I was so excited it was bestowed on me.”

We’re excited, too, just as we are excited by the many great things happening in Durham or because of Durham’s sons and daughters.