Candy stands at the front of a room filled with fifth graders at Faith Diamond Christian Academy in Chesapeake. The children are sitting down for lunch but distracted by a bright orange T-shirt slightly visible underneath their faith teacher’s blazer. “Ms. Candy, you have on an orange top under there?”
Kids are naturally inquisitive, and Candy uses this curiosity to enlighten them. “Let me show you something,” she says as she reveals the sparkling letters on her shirt that read, I need to eat so I can think.
“Did you know there are some kids who don’t have the opportunity to eat lunch? And don’t you feel like if you don’t eat and you go to class you can’t focus?” The kids begin to understand as Candy drives the message home: “If you don’t eat, you can’t think.”
Candy conveys messages like this as often as she can to bring awareness about food insecurity in our community. For many groups, she shares ways to get involved in the fight against hunger. “I’ll tell people, ‘Do you know if you give just $10 the Foodbank can buy $60 worth of food?’” This message resonates with her friends and members of her church, who now ask, “Can we do the $10 for $60?” whenever Candy holds a food and fund drive for the Foodbank.
She has discovered multiple ways to get involved with the Foodbank, including a membership with Women Ending Hunger, a society committed to making a significant, lasting difference in the lives of citizens through the Foodbank’s programs and initiatives.
It’s apparent that Candy is all in when it comes to supporting the Foodbank, an organization that, up until five years ago, she knew nothing about. When asked to join a group of volunteers one day to donate time sorting food donations, she said yes, and she’s been involved ever since.
For those who know Candy, this isn’t surprising. Once she becomes devoted to a cause, she commits to making a difference. This is how she came to start her own nonprofit.
During Candy’s earlier career as a realtor, her company raised funds for residents in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. However, Candy wanted to do more. She tracked down some individuals based in New York who were planning a trip to Haiti and joined the group of complete strangers to visit a country she’d never been to and stay at a location with no toilets or running water.
“Coming back on the plane, I said, I have to do something else,” she recalls. “These kids can’t live like this.” She and her husband, Everett, decided to start a nonprofit.
The name of the organization, Daniel’s Blessing, was inspired by the couple’s son, Daniel, who passed away in infancy. “He was here for three days, and it was for a reason,” she says. Candy attributes her passion for helping kids to losing Daniel at such a young age. “When I look at kids, I kind of see him,” she shares.
During trips to Haiti, Candy assists children with educational and personal needs by covering their fees for tuition, school uniforms and classroom supplies and bringing them toys. “They have so little,” she explains. “To see the look in their eyes, like somebody cares—that’s what keeps me going.”
Candy kept on going, determined to positively impact the lives of children in her own community. She began to consider lessons that girls could benefit from but don’t always have access to—education about money, communication and etiquette. Three years ago, she launched Powerful Pearls as a way to teach girls ages 10 to 17 some of the life lessons they wouldn’t learn in school and empower them to be successful.
Arguably one of the most meaningful concepts taught through Powerful Pearls is the importance of giving back, a lesson that Candy is poised to share. A favorite activity among the group of young ladies is volunteering at the Foodbank. “They didn’t realize that there are so many people without food,” Candy says.
As someone who is dedicated to making a difference in children’s lives, Candy’s favorite volunteer activity is packing bags for the Foodbank’s BackPack Program. “Most schools provide breakfast and lunch, but you don’t know what children get when they leave school—especially on Fridays,” she says. When she first heard about the BackPack Program—as with most initiatives that inspire her to serve—Candy declared, “I’m all in.”