Dawn Burroughs had to make a promise.
The fourth-grader would not leave until Burroughs did.
Looking back, Burroughs, 58, had attended sixth through 12th grades in Elk City. Fast-forwarding to a couple of years ago, Burroughs, vice president of marketing and communications for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, saw an opportunity. It was time for the regional food bank’s end-of-school Food for Kids survey and Elk City was one of the sites scheduled to be visited.
So Burroughs took it, thinking it would be fun to “go back for a visit and see what kind of an impact our childhood hunger program was having there.” It was more than fun, it was deeply insightful, said Burroughs, of Oklahoma City, in reflecting on that experience.
On that day in the far western Oklahoma community, there was one fourth-grader who could hardly sit still during the interview.
The child was so excited to share with Burroughs her plans to someday play basketball for University of Oklahoma Coach Sherri Coale.
“When I asked if she ever has any food left over from her Food for Kids backpack, she replied that she shares the food with her dad who is a diabetic and that they try to make the food last as long as they can,” Burroughs said.
“She also said they get food stamps but it doesn’t last very long. Before the interview was over, she asked if I could add her friend to the backpack program.
“She said her friend didn’t have any food in her house and went on to explain that she’d been sharing some of her food from her backpack with her. She was genuinely worried about her friend.”
The fourth-grader Burroughs had met returned to the interview three times. Burroughs was asked why the student kept coming back to see her.
“To make sure that I had written down her friend’s name and only left after I promised to get her friend added to the program right away,” Burroughs said.
“Whenever I start to wonder if what we are doing is making a difference, I think about this little girl. And I remember how someone with so little was willing to share with someone who had even less.”
Burroughs, who for years helped in one way or another with efforts of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, has been employed there since 2007.
Although born in Topeka, Kan., Burroughs lived in Delaware, Okinawa (Japan) and Nevada as her father served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Her father was killed in a plane crash when Burroughs was 11 and the family moved to Oklahoma to be near her mother’s family.
Burroughs said that witnessing how people in Oklahoma respond to the needs of others in everyday life and in times of tragedy has certainly influenced her.
“Of all the places I have lived and traveled, I am most proud to call this my home,” Burroughs said. “There is truly nothing more rewarding than helping others. I am constantly amazed at how many people donate their time and their resources every day at the Regional Food Bank.
“Devon Energy and their employees had me in tears recently when they announced how much money they raised during their annual Feeding Hope Food and Fund Drive, more than $1.1 million.
“These individuals may never meet the people they are helping, but they continue to help nevertheless because it’s the right thing to do. That inspires me.”
About the program
To make a donation, please call 600-3136 or visit www.regionalfoodbank.org.