It’s hard to resist beginning a story like this with the following sentence: Yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch.
In this case, the free lunches recognize the contributions of people considered essential workers during the pandemic: nurses, convenience store and Walmart employees, and correctional officers, for example. The meals are being provided by the FreshBoyz Club, an organization started by Longwood alum Louis Gould III ’19 in 2008 to give boys and young men a place to focus on becoming productive and helping members of their communities.
These people are risking their lives every day to provide the services we need. In FreshBoyz, we focus on thinking not just about ourselves, but about others.Louis Gould III ’19 Tweet This
The club, whose members are from Prince Edward, Cumberland and Buckingham counties and represent a range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, is giving away free lunches every Friday during the month of May, said Gould. He declined to say exactly whose idea the project was, holding true to the FreshBoyz Club tenet that everything is a collaborative effort.
After the first three Fridays in May, the club had given away 18 free meals in Facebook live drawings that attracted up to 30 entries each, some from as far away as North Carolina. Winners receive $10 to purchase lunch at the restaurant of their choice.
Chontrese Whiting, a medical office assistant at Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville, was one of the names drawn on May 15. A high-school friend of Gould’s, she used her $10 to buy lunch at KJ Hibachi.
“The FreshBoyz Club always does a lot for the community—not just during the pandemic,” she said, adding that she appreciated being thanked for her contributions at the hospital.
I am ecstatic that there is a group dedicated to mentoring young men in our community. FreshBoyz members provide much-needed services while also learning the tools necessary to be successful, productive members of society.Megan Clark ’05, Prince Edward County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tweet This
Gould said the group plans new community service projects every quarter. “We’re having to be creative now so that we can practice social distancing, but even if we can’t be out and about doing the things we used to do, we can still reach our community.”
Funding for the free lunch initiative comes from community businesses, including A&J Consulting—Community Engagement and Outreach Services LLC, and individuals, including Prince Edward County Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Clark ’05, as well as from club members.
“I am ecstatic that there is a group dedicated to mentoring young men in our community,” said Clark. “FreshBoyz members provide much-needed services while also learning the tools necessary to be successful, productive members of society.”
Also in May, the club participated in Box of Blessings, a food drive spearheaded by A&J Consulting. Club members collected donations and helped distribute more than 60 boxes of food one afternoon at the Farmville Holiday Inn Express. Donors included individuals and several additional community groups and businesses, including FACES food pantry, Royal Jewelz Social Club, Walmart and Southside Electric Cooperative.
“We help out at FACES all the time. We wanted to provide an extra hand. There’s definitely much more need in the community now,” he said.
Among the club members helping with the food giveaway were Jaheim Maye, 13, a rising 9th-grader at Cumberland High School, and Elijah Taylor, 15, who will be a sophomore at Prince Edward High School next year.
Taylor said he joined FreshBoyz after seeing the impact it had on his brother. “I wanted to better myself and help out in the community,” he said. “My brother was in the club, and I saw he was having a good experience. It’s good for me, too. It makes me feel helpful and caring.”
Gould said the idea is to raise the bar for what members expect of themselves and each other, a philosophy reflected in the club’s motto: “All men were created equal. Some just stand out more.”
For Maye, the club has provided motivation and positive ways to spend his time and energy.
“I wanted to be a leader, not a follower,” he said. “I wanted to volunteer instead of just sitting around doing nothing.”