Jen Meldrum is now the Summer Local Lady GODIVA Honoree in the Central Southeast region. Jen is one of three women in the country to be honored this season for their contributions to local communities. Jen's receiving a $1,000 grant from Godiva Chocolatier to help support her cause, and if chosen as the 2012 annual Local Lady GODIVA Honoree she'll receive an additional $10,000 grant.
Her husband, Chris, nominated Jen for her work with PORCH-Durham.
“Chris often purchases chocolates for me at Godiva, and I guess he saw the competition,” Jen says. “ When I got the email telling me I was nominated, it was very surprising to me.”
A panel of judges picked Jen out of more than 3,000 nationwide nominees to be one of nine semi-finalists. Jen then received the most online votes of the three semi-finalists in the Central Southeast region and was named a Summer Local Lady GODIVA Honoree.
“It is a validation of the work,” Jen says. “I’m very humbled and very honored.”
To get the votes necessary to win, Jen posted messages to her Facebook page and the PORCH-Durham Twitter account. While Chris doesn’t have a social media account, he got his friends and colleagues to post about the competition.
In the fall of 2010, Jen, Lesli Garrison and Chasie Harris were looking to help provide relief to those in Durham without enough to eat. So they founded the Durham chapter of PORCH and decided to support the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s BackPack Buddies Program.
The BackPack Buddies Program provides a backpack containing six balanced meals and two healthy snacks to keep children living in food-insecure homes from going hungry over the weekend. At the end of every week during the school year, the program sends out 420 backpacks of food to children in Durham County Public Schools and the John Avery Boys & Girls Club of Durham. School principals, guidance counselors and various after-school programs select the children to receive the backpacks.
“We have done so well since we started that the program is adding another school,” Jen says.
In January 2011, the first PORCH-Durham food drive collected more than 90 bags of food from 70 porches. The group has grown to become the single largest donor to the BackPack Buddies Program. PORCH-Durham now regularly receives donations from more than 200 porches, with donations tipping the scales at up to 3,000 pounds every month.
If she were named the 2012 annual Local Lady GODIVA Honoree, Jen says she would invest the money in helping more children receive backpacks. The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle says it costs $350 to cover one student for a year, but Jen says only around 2-5% of the children who need backpacks are getting one.
Jen says that she hopes one of the two other women who founded PORCH-Durham with her, or a woman from one of the other chapters of PORCH, will be nominated in the future.
If you know a woman who displays generosity, selflessness and leadership while working to improve their local community you can nominate them as a Fall Local Lady GODIVA Honoree here.