A Benton teen is taking a stand to end local hunger.
Lynnse Terhune, 14, began the ‘Stand Up To Hunger’ campaign last summer after participating in a 30 hour famine event at Benton United Methodist Church. The annual event is one designed to challenge youth across the world to forgo food in order to raise money and awareness about global hunger.
Lynnse said God opened her eyes and soul to a much bigger issue though, one that she didn’t even know existed this close to home.
“I had food that I complained about eating, but there were kids in Benton going hungry every day. You always see commercials with organizations helping third world countries, but no one was doing that around here,” she said. “I believe that if you start at home, you can affect the world.”
So she sat down and mapped out a plan, which Lynnse said only took about an hour to come up with. She decided to design and sell t-shirts to raise money for the Benton UMC food pantry ministries.
Lynnse took her plan and presented it to Selitha Turner, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) sponsor, and Teri Howe, Assistant Principal, at Benton High School. She didn’t know what they would think, but Lynnse knew she had to try anyway.
By the next day, she had approval to sell the shirts at school.
“I had more people care than I ever thought they would,” Lynnse said. “There were so many people wanting to help.”
Then her church got involved and that’s when Lynnse’s small idea really took off, growing into something she never imagined it would.
Lynnse sold a total of 95 t-shirts at her school and church, raising more than $400 for the Benton UMC food pantry ministry. Though it didn’t seem like a lot, she knew that someone in the community would see the benefits of her hard work.
However, Lynnse didn’t stop there. She designed and produced a video, which she presented to the church during their Advent Conspiracy giving campaign, and also sold orange rubber wristbands with the Stand Up To Hunger logo.
The final total from t-shirt and bracelet sales exceeded $3,500. Rachel Stoneman, director of communications and missions at Benton UMC, said every penny collected has gone toward one of the food pantry ministries at the church.
Benton UMC serves as a distribution point for the Northwest Louisiana Food Bank and hands out an average of 7,688 pounds of food each month to 127 local families. They also have an emergency food pantry, which serves families in immediate need of food, and a Souper Saturday program, which delivers a hot meal to 75 seniors in the Benton area.
Last year alone, Benton UMC served 238 families, 579 total household members, with more than 92,000 pounds of food from the USDA & NWLA Food Bank. The statistics also show that they helped 11 homeless families, 13 families who are at risk of being homeless and 46 disabled residents.
Lynnse said she plans to continue raising money for the food pantry ministries, focusing her efforts on helping people in the community and also raising awareness.
“The feeling you get from helping people can’t be explained with words,” she said. “It’s a feeling that warms the heart and makes you feel God’s love. That’s something no amount of money can buy.”
Stoneman said Lynnse’s attitude makes her an inspiration to others in the community.
“She has had a big impact on the youth group here. They see her serving others and they see the potential they have to do the same,” Stoneman said. “It’s a lot of work, but the whole youth group is proud of her.”
Stand Up To Hunger has been a physical and mental journey for Lynnse, but it has also brought her much closer to her community and spiritual faith.
“You don’t realize how many people are out there crying for help. Just when you think no one hears them, God was there the whole time. If I didn’t have God, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Lynnse has established a Stand Up To Hunger page on Facebook, which she plans to post project updates and information about upcoming events. In the future, she wants to design and sell new t-shirts, include more schools and churches in Bossier Parish and host a 5K fun run event.
She extended special thanks to God, her family, Benton High School and Benton United Methodist Church for their continued support. Her advice to other teens with the desire to make a difference is to simply “believe in yourself” and “follow your dreams.”
“It seemed as though I started with something that was so small, but my faith, determination and integrity has led me to making a difference,” Lynnse said. “You can, too, if you just stick with it.”