Aubrey McGrath learned all about service watching his white aunt raise six African American siblings in smalltown Mississippi.
The children’s parents are in prison and were taken in by their grandmother, who worked for Aubrey’s great-grandfather. When their grandmother died, Aubrey’s great-grandfather cared for them. When he died, Aunt Beth took over.
"My family has donated clothes to them, and helped in other ways," said Aubrey, 16, a rising junior at Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte. "The two children who are still with my aunt are sweet kids. They deserve better than what they’ve gotten."
So do others here in Charlotte, Aubrey says.
In February, as the economic malaise deepened, he with help from his mother, Merrie, fanned his Dilworth neighborhood with flyers inviting neighbors to put food on their porch and he’d pick it up to help feed the hungry. Six months later, he still collects non-perishables and Fridays takes it to a food pantry run by Catholic Social Services.
About 75 families are signed up. Sundays, he sends out a mass emailing reminding those families that he’s still in business and willing to pick up the food. On average, 10 houses a week email back that they’ll leave out a few bags.
Typically by Thursday, his family’s dining room table is stacked high with cans of food, jars of peanut butter and cereal.
It started as a service project for school, but it’s become a passion for Aubrey. He’s said he’s not doing this for college applications.
He understands his lot in life is better than many.
"I don’t like to see people unhappy with their situation," he said. "I don’t like to see people go hungry. Everyone’s having a hard time now. I sincerely want to help.
"This is a way for the whole neighborhood to pitch in together to make times a littler easier for those in need."