Citizens For Ormond Beach recognized Carrie Torres with the award for her local role in eliminating childhood hunger.
It's more than a bag of food.
For Ormond Beach resident and Provision Packs founder Carrie Torres, one bag of food means investing in the future of local children. It means empowering the children to help feed their family and coming back to school after the weekend at their best. Without worrying about food, Torres said, the students can think about being a kid.
“We want to replace fear with food," Torres said.
Torres was recently recognized with Citizens For Ormond Beach's Citizen of the Year and Unsung Hero award on Wednesday, Oct. 16, due to her role in helping end child hunger in the community through Provision Packs, a program that provides six to eight meals for children on the weekends and extended school breaks.
With help from volunteers, Provision Packs distributed 245,497 meals since 2015, according to the program's 2018-2019 impact statement. Seven schools are enrolled in the program: Pathways Elementary, Tomoka Elementary, Ortona Elementary, Pine trail Elementary, Ormond Beach Elementary, Osceola Elementary and Holly Hill School. For the 2019-2020 school year, Provision Packs estimates it will need 17,480 bags of food for the children they help. One bag of food costs the program $5. Come next year, the program will also be expanded.
Torres said Provision Packs aims to create a "giving cycle."
“What community really is, is part of our mission at Provision Packs— that love, that love for one another that we don’t just put our blinders on, pay our taxes and assume that everyone else is taking care of it, but rather know your neighbor," Torres said. "Love your neighbor.”
On choosing Torres
CFOB has honored a variety of different people in the community, including Gloria Max of the Jewish Federation, Dr. Pamela Carbiener and developer Bill Jones.
“But what we try to do is find that unsung hero — that person who sees a need, steps up, maybe has leadership, gets other people involved and helps to solve a problem," said Rita Press, past chair and board member of CFOB.
The board nominated Torres for the award due to the Ormond Beach Observer, Press said. She had read the story in the paper's April 4, 2019 edition. Most people in the community don't know who Torres is and what Provision Packs is doing.
“[Torres] actually is opening our eyes to a problem,” Press said.
When someone like Torres starts an effort like this, it becomes a movement, Press added. Other people get involved and the community benefits when it is brought together.
“Isn’t that wonderful to have a community filled with people like that?" Press said. "That’s the tapestry of Ormond Beach.”
Torres learned she was going to be named Citizen of the Year sometime mid-summer. She felt humbled and excited. It was another opportunity to spread Provision Packs' mission, and to tear down stereotypes regarding childhood hunger.
She never sees the kids she helps, but she hears stories.
Most recently, one of her volunteers told her a first-grader mustered up the strength to ask for more bags of food. The student said he had siblings back home and that they didn't have food either.
“My volunteer looked down and said, ‘we’ll get you another bag,’" Torres retold. "And he said he went home with one in his pack and one in each hand, and he was so proud because he was going to go home and feed his little brother and sister.”
'She's my inspiration'
At the CFOB dinner, Torres got to speak in front of her family and community members about why Provision Packs matters. She also got to thank her mom.
After her parents divorced when she was young, she and her sister lived with their mom in a one-bedroom apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. Before the divorce, her mom had been a stay-at-home mom. After, she worked three jobs to keep them afloat.
At night her mom would bake desserts to sell to local restaurants for extra cash. She would also sow at the dining room table. One night, the smell of baked goods woke up Torres, and she opened the bedroom door just a sliver to see her mom at the dining room table. She was surrounded by fabric, patterns and bills.
“I could see her with her face in the fabric," Torres said. "She was sobbing, but she sobbed in the fabric so she wouldn’t wake us. I could just tell how tired and defeated she was.”
Torres wants to help parents not feel that alone. Her mom is her inspiration.
She hopes her children see that too.
“That if you have a mission, if you have a cause, if you have a passion, be the change," Torres said.