Jefferson Awards: Roark Sizemore
Starting at a young age, Roark Sizemore was no stranger to volunteer work and community service. As he spent more and more time at food pantries helping those less fortunate than him, Roark saw the need for help in West Virginia first hand.
"There are 2,600 kids here that are hungry every day. That is a ton of people," Roark said. "There are 14,000 adults, that is enough to fill the Coliseum to capacity."
Born and raised in Morgantown, the 20-year-old West Virginia University junior says it is his "moral obligation" to help his neighbors. He attributes his passion for philanthropy to his parents, who showed him the ropes with various service projects when he was a child.
"They instilled this value that if you have the capacity to help, then you should help," Roark says. He went on to say it is a pretty simple concept, but he tries to live by that mindset daily.
He got the ground running by starting his own food pantry in high school: The Pantry Plus More, Inc. His original vision was to stock local schools with stores full of free food, clothing, school supplies and personal hygiene products.
His main objective is keeping the pantry completely confidential. Students do not have to sign in or ask for permission and can grab everything they want or need without anyone knowing.
"It can be tough to ask for help, especially when you don't want your friends to see, and kids can be mean sometimes, " Roark said.
Putting the pantry in the four walls of a school also puts emphasis on education, by keeping kids in school and giving them what they need to succeed. Roark says this was a big push for the pantry because he views education as the most powerful tool.
"If you are not at school you can't learn so we are doing everything we can to make sure kids can be in school, can be focused on school, just like everyone else," said Roark.
On top of participating in student government, attending school full time, and staying hands-on with other service work, Roark expanded his pantry to eight schools.
Those who work side by side with Roark say his passion just radiates, and his investment is truly inspiring to people of all ages.
"He works so hard. It is always amazing to me that he manages to get through college and do all of the stuff he's doing," Pantry Plus More board member Vicki Conners says. "It's not just focused on the pantry, its focus on hunger in general."
Roark's Pantry Plus More runs off of donations and grant money. They are always looking for more helping hands and new products to fill their shelves.
For more information on how to volunteer or donate, you can visit https://www.pantryplusmore.org/.