Faith, hope and peanut butter: meet Morgan Dingler


Morgan Dingler, who has been collecting jars of peanut butter for Knapsacks for Kids, gets help from the staff at Warehouse Discount Groceries.  (Photo Courtesy Melissa Betts)

CULLMAN – When Morgan Dingler went to help out at a dinner for needy families, it was an eye-opening experience that left her wondering what she could do to help her community and combat hunger.  With a little research and help from Melissa Betts, the children’s minister at her church, Dingler found her answer: peanut butter. A recently concluded donation drive spearheaded by Dingler collected more than 1,000 jars that will be distributed to students by Knapsacks for Kids, a children’s charity with offices in Cullman, Hanceville, Vinemont, West Point, Holly Pond and Good Hope serving students and their families all over the county.

On Tuesday, the 16-year-old Cullman High School sophomore and Cullman First Methodist Church youth shared her story with The Tribune.  

“I went and helped at The Link (of Cullman County), and they were feeding homeless people from around Cullman or people that just didn’t have a lot of money to support themselves,” said Dingler. “And we were serving them food, and I just noticed that it’s a lot of people that you don’t normally expect to be in such a little community. And so I went to Melissa, because she’s over the children’s organization at church, and I asked her if there was anything we could do to help.”

Why peanut butter?

Peanut butter has been manufactured in the U.S. since the 1880s and started as an expensive snack food for the rich.  By the end of the 19th century, it was being served in some hospitals as a means of providing patients with a good source of protein that did not have to be chewed.  In the 20th century, it became cheaper to produce and found a place as an economical source of protein for needy families: a healthy commodity that could be stored for long periods of time without needing refrigeration.

Numerous area businesses, churches and schools participated in Dingler’s drive, including:

  • First United Methodist Church of Cullman
  • St. John’s Little Lambs
  • East Elementary School
  • Cullman High Schools- Ms. McCutcheon’s Spanish classes and Mrs. Gleaton with the Leo Club
  • Fairview Schools
  • Vinemont Schools
  • Holly Pond Schools
  • Warehouse Discount Groceries – Hanceville, Downtown Shopping Center, and Hwy. 157
  • Save A Lot Cullman
  • Grace Chapel
  • James R Smith Trucking

Betts said about Dingler, “I’ve known Morgan for the last eight years, so she was very young when I met her, and I’ve watched her grow through adolescence all the way now to really developing into a young lady who desires to be a leader in our community.  And not only is she pursuing leadership opportunities through the church, but also through school. And I really believe that a young person who would step out and just say to our county a program like this needs your support, and have the response that she’s had, says a tremendous amount about her leadership abilities.

“So, if she’s 16 now, I can’t imagine how developed she will be in her leadership skills as an adult.”

Knapsacks for Kids

Approximately 4,783 students, one in every four, in Cullman County suffer from some degree of food insecurity.  On Fridays during the school year, Knapsacks for Kids provides backpacks full of food to students who have been identified as having a lack of regular access to sufficient food.  The program feeds around 600 students around Cullman County. Through its members’ efforts and community donations, the program is able to feed one student for around $200 per school year, or around $5 per week.

Knapsacks for Kids is always looking for more volunteers and donations of goods or money.  To get involved, contact Betts at 205-410 5791. Betts connects interested volunteers with local volunteer leaders.

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