Retirement was looming, and Chester David was feeling … nervous?
David loved his job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor working with disabled veterans, and he couldn’t imagine how retirement could top it.
“I’d ask other retirees what they did, because I had no idea what I was going to do. I’d already traveled everywhere I wanted to go, and I don’t golf,” he jokes. “But I always knew I wanted to retire to something, not from something.”
In 2011, David read a newspaper article that said Winston-Salem led the nation in the number of families with hungry children. It seemed like a dubious stat to him; he personally didn’t know anyone who was “hungry.” But after a little research, he learned there were entire neighborhoods in town that he had never visited, and the children there were suffering.
“I felt called to do something and created a plan,” he says. “But I wondered, ‘How does an outsider become an insider and build trust?’ ”
He visited Second Harvest Food Bank and learned that a local elementary school, Ashley Academy, was approved for a feeding program that would deliver food to hungry children for the weekend, but it had no sponsor. He began laying the groundwork for what would become Hunger 2 Health by meeting with community leaders in and outside the school. This led to the creation of a coalition through his church, Ardmore Baptist, which became Ashley’s sponsor.
Hunger 2 Health delivered its first backpacks of food in 2012, and today the program delivers 125 backpacks each week. Many church members are also involved in mentoring programs at the school, including David and his wife, Susan, who read to students weekly.
In addition to his work with Hunger 2 Health, David also serves a number of other causes in town. They include Love Out Loud’s Gift Mart, which provides an opportunity for parents to purchase discounted holiday gifts for their children; Experiment in Self-Reliance, where he serves on the board of directors; Ronald McDonald House, where he helps feed families who have kids staying at Brenner Children’s Hospital; and Samaritan’s Feet, which donates shoes to children both locally and across the globe.
At the core of all his volunteer duties is one common theme—helping children.
“The best thing we can do as adults is to build relationships with kids,” he says. “I believe the greatest job I have in my life as a retiree is to see a door that God has opened and know I need to go through it.”