Students feed 5,000
Guardian Lifestyles Editor
Published: Dec 15, 2016
Six years after its start, the QC 5000 club — an organization established with the vision to make a difference in the community and touch lives in a meaningful way, and based on the parable of the Feeding of the 5,000 — attained its milestone, serving its 5,009th hot meal to the disadvantaged at Retirement Park.
The club, which has been headed for the past five years by Peter Culmer, who is 17 and now in 12th grade, fed 204 people on Saturday to reach the 5,000-meal mark.
In the history of the club, which was started in September 2010 by former Queen’s College (QC) head boy Carlyle W.F. Bethel, 256 people at one feeding is the record; on average the club feeds approximately 125 people each month.
The food is prepared and served by the students.
Culmer, who joined the club from its inception, was ecstatic at the realization of milestone.
“I was happy to see a lot of people came out that day and we were able to feed the actual 5,000 after six years,” he said.
For the milestone occasion, the club varied its menu for this year. Rather than serving the usual corned beef or tuna and grits, the QC 5000 members served up chicken souse, Johnny cake and grits and juice or water. Club members also gave out care packages with toiletries.
The club will resume its monthly feeding outreach when school reopens in January. Feedings are usually once a month, but they are sometimes held twice a month, if the club has available funds.
The club president said the entire school body was proud of the club’s accomplishment.
“It’s really not just one grade… the primary school, the ELC, the high school… every department helps out with our program. They finance us, and all parts of the school come out.”
Even though, at its inception, the QC 5000 Club was intended to be limited to high school students, Culmer, who was then in sixth grade, snuck in there. As president, he in turn does not limit the club to high school students, because he said the club’s mission fits in with QC’s Peace Movement.
QC’s “Peace Begins With Me” campaign was established to recognize the services of young people whose actions promote peace and have had a significant impact on the community. The campaign started in December 2007 in response to the increase in violence in the country; it rallied every member and stakeholder of the QC community to resolve to make a difference in the world.
The “Peace Begins With Me” campaign included the launch of the “Paths to Peace Youth Award”, which was established to recognize the services of young people whose actions promote peace and have had significant impact on the community.
The inaugural “Paths to Peace Award” was presented to Carlyle in recognition of his creation of QC 5000.
In his second year in the club, Culmer assumed a vice president role as a seventh grade student; then took over the presidency in eighth grade, a position he’s held ever since.
Through his club involvement, Culmer himself has grown as an individual. While he fed the less fortunate, he saw his confidence grow as well.
“At first I was very shy, and thought it [QC 5000] was just something I could
do for community service, but after the first and second feedings, I saw that it helped the less fortunate, some of whom actually went to QC, but also got students involved. It was a way they could see that some people don’t have what they have,” he said.
“I just really enjoy doing the feedings. I like giving back to my community,” he said.
It usually takes Peter and his club members about a week to prepare for a feeding. He announces the upcoming outreach to the school body during an assembly a week out, before engaging in meetings with club members to prepare the food.
Now that Peter’s in his final year, he said he has identified a few people who could take over from him. The person he wants to take over, he said, should be willing to step up and do what needs to be done, no matter what is happening on a Saturday. He said the person has to be willing to wake up at 5 a.m. to get the job done.
Peter was also pleased that Bethel was present to see the club actually feed 5,000 people. Since graduating, he said, Bethel would come to the park to be with them whenever he could.
Peter also lauded Bethel’s mother Lisa Bethel, who he said supported them and came out to feedings, even after her children had graduated, bringing two pots of grits and a cooler of ice.
“She [Bethel] is always there to help. And of course my mother [Angela Culmer, QC’s deputy head of Primary/Foundation Years] would wake up early in the mornings, and if we need to make something she would help me make it. She would always be the one who I would get stressed helping me out to do the feedings,” he said.
Bethel, 23, now works in wealth management. He said he was proud to witness QC 5000 actually serve 5,000 meals. Since graduating college and joining the workforce, he tries to support the club with his presence whenever it does a feeding.
“I was proud — not really in me starting the club — I was proud to see where the club had grown after I’d left. It showed that it wasn’t just me who has this passion to help other people, but it’s a number of young people,” he said.
“Peter did a phenomenal job. There couldn’t have been a better person to take the club forward. The passion he has for it is really admirable.”
Bethel added: “The beautiful thing is that he, as an individual, he has grown as well through it. When he first started, he was very shy and kept to himself. He wanted to help out, but was always scared to step forward and to step up to the plate, but now he’s a completely different person. He’s talking, willing to engage the people that visit, and he and brings people into the process. And that’s the beautiful thing about leaders — they bring other people in, and [Peter’s] grown the club from 10 to 30. And that’s another beauty of the initiative as well, because when you get involved, you have an opportunity to grow because there’s benefit in it for you as well, so you help yourself through helping others.”
He added: “I remember when we started, we just had the corned beef and tuna and grits. It just shows that when young people dedicate their time to an effort collectively, there is no limit to what they can achieve. And there is room for it to grow. They’re talking about what they can do to take it further. I spoke to one of the students who said to me they wanted to find other ways to help others, because the amount of students they have for what they do, that there are too many students volunteering right now, so they have to find new ways to expand the reach of the organization… maybe have two locations, or go out more than once a month, or maybe spread into a different avenue or sector of outreach.”
Bethel said the success of QC 5000 could also be attributed to the school’s administrative team, which he said was onboard with the initiative from the beginning and is still encouraging and involved today.
“While the students get the spotlight, the school has been 100 percent behind the organization and has really pushed it and helped it reach to where it is. Mrs. Culmer has been very instrumental [and] Mommy [Mrs. Bethel] has been a real trooper,” he said.