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Special to the Enquirer

Shining example of good

Local teen steps up to help during pandemic

In a time when other 15-year-olds might be playing video games or enjoying some extra time away from school, Izen Thornton has stepped up to help those in need in his community. 

The Hartselle High student is a member of the Civil Air Patrol and has been volunteering with Feeding Families for more than a year. In recent weeks, he has added some extra volunteer time to help with the rising needs following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Edee Grun oversees Feeding Families, and she said Thornton has been essential to keeping the food pantry open when the need is at its highest. Although he has volunteered for some time, Thornton has also recently begun helping in new ways, including making an Amazon list for the pantry and delivering those donations, doing yardwork and helping prepare meals for families. 

Grun said Thornton is an example of good during trying times. 

“This pandemic has brought out the absolute worst in mankind all over the country with selfishness and hoarding, but at the same time it has also brought out the best in so many in our community,” Grun said. “Sometimes it takes a person like Izen to remind us of what we should do in these hard situations – to remind us to keep going no matter what. To remind us that we are all in this together, to show those that are in such paralyzing fear that there is still good out there. 

“Good does still exist, and Izen is a shining example of that.” 

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Thornton had set up a food drive at school to benefit Feeding Families. When the pandemic hit, he and his mother quickly planned an alternative to help people. 

“He and his mother sat down and created an Amazon list for us and started sharing with everyone and asking people to order things off it for us,” Grun said. “It is delivered to him, and then he brings it over here with his mother’s help. He has really helped us keep going and kept the food pantry going through this whole pandemic nightmare.” 

Grun said Thornton’s attitude and spirit have been amazing.

“He never complains and does whatever needs to be done. He is definitely a leader and not a follower. When he sets his mind to something, and when he comes up with a project, he clears it with me, and he doesn’t let go until he makes it happen,” Grun said. 

In addition to people being without jobs or missing paychecks during the outbreak, Grun said many simply cannot find the food to feed their families or cannot find enough to feed their families. She said the need has skyrocketed, and that increase coupled with a reduction in donations has sent Feeding Families scrambling to help those in need. 

Grun said the pantry has gone from serving about 400 people a week to serving just less than 700, and she expects the need to continue to grow.  

In response, the pantry has been offering curbside meals to families in need from 4-6 p.m. during weekdays. Grun said Thornton and his mother have been helping with that as well.

“He basically does anything. He contacts me every few days and asks me if I have anything for him to do,” Grun said. “I don’t care if it’s going out here to do yard work – he has done hours and hours of yard work. He does anything he can to help.” 

As the current situation continues to develop, Grun said she hopes Izen can serve as an example to others of what they should be doing for their neighbors. 

“With everything that is going on, I would encourage people to be more like Izen,” she said. “He is a 15-year-old kid and makes sacrifices every day. He could be out doing a lot of things, but he chooses to help people. 

“I would so hope these adults that get busy and forget that there are people that don’t have it as good as they do would try to be more like Izen.” 

In addition to food, Grun said items such as Styrofoam bowls with lids, disposable cutlery – especially spoons – cling wrap, aluminum foil and gallon zip bags are needed. 

Those wanting to help can also make monetary donations to Feeding Families by visiting https://www.feedingfamiliesal.com/donate. 

Thornton’s wish list can also be found here.

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