Randolph County woman works to provide food for children during summer

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HIGBEE – Margaret Buschnell leads a group of volunteers who feed about 40 children every weekday in Randolph County. She is part of the Summer Cafe Program of "Randolph Community Caring Community." 

Buschnell started volunteering with the non-profit about six years ago.

"Debbie Garner was head of it then, and she called me to ask me if I would volunteer to go get dinners. I told her, yes I would," she said. "So, I started doing that, and then she dropped down, so I kind of took over to get it organized."

Buschnell has lived in Higbee since May of 1970. She now has 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. 

"It's a caring community. When anything happens, or anybody needs help, they're always here to help him," she said. "We do a lot of help for the older people, and the young ones as well."

Buschnell is actively involved in other community groups.

"I volunteer for the Higbee Senior Citizens, four days a week, delivering dinners, and I am involved in the Higbee Fair and Activity Board," she said.

She said, in a small town, it is important that neighbors help each other out.

"A lot of them don't have other families right close, and the ones in this town help them and do for them when they need it," Buschnell said.

The volunteer work for Randolph County Caring Community is also a family effort.

Two of her daughters, Dora Redifer and Debbie Gini, also help to provide meals for children. 

"Debbie Gini, she volunteers on Monday to go get the dinners and pass them out," Buschnell said. "Then Dora, my other daughter, she does it when needed."

Redifer said her mother has gotten to know children in the community so well that, when some of them do not come to Katy Park for the Summer Cafe, Buschnell goes to the children's houses to deliver their lunch.

Buschnell said, "A lot of them I'd be somewhere, and they'd say, oh there's grandma, there's grandma. They are not my grandkids, but there's a lot of them that does call me grandma."

Kim Buckman, director of "Impacting Youth Wellness" for Randolph County Caring Community, said about 60 percent of children in the county qualify for free and reduced lunch.

"That means that normally they get affordable lunches during the school year. During summer they don't have that," she said.

Buckman said the support of volunteers is essential to help feed those children.

"If we didn't have people that were volunteering, that were helping us pack, that were helping us do stations like Margaret, we wouldn't be able to do the program," she said.

Buschnell said her main purpose for volunteering with the Summer Cafe is to prevent children from being hungry.

"There are a lot of parents who work, and the kids are not allowed to do a lot of cooking stuff," she said. "So, they can come up and get their lunch here, and then they can, you know, have it until their parents get home at night."

Throughout all her years as a volunteer, Buschnell has seen children come back for every Summer Cafe.

"I think it's wonderful that they'd keep coming back, knowing that we are here for them," she said. "Maybe one of these days, they would be involved in this."

Buckman said part of the reason children continue to come back are Buschnell's expertise and connection with the community.

"Having someone who's been doing it for years, not only has that connection with the community, so that they're consistent at that location, that the kids trust, and families trust and feel like they can come for," Buckman said.

Buschnell said she will continue to volunteer as long as she is able. After that, she hopes young people will step up and take over.

"I hope it continues, I hope we have enough that sees what we are doing and they'll continue it," she said.

Buckman said people are always welcome to volunteer.

"Obviously if we had a thousand Margarets that would be phenomenal, where everybody can dedicate that kind of time to sit at a location during that time, and give that five to six year commitment," she said. "But if you can only volunteer for two hours on a Tuesday, that's great, just let us know. There's kind of jobs for everybody at every level."

More information is available on the organization's website or by calling Randolph County Caring Community at 660-263-7173.