Golf nonprofit tees off on hunger, helps to feed Durham schoolchildren

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- So many organizations are shifting their focus to help others in the community. One of those is SwingPals in Durham.

The nonprofit works with sixth-graders in Durham public schools who are facing adversity. Last month, the golf-centered program swung in a different direction to help provide food.

Eight years ago, Doug Hodges came up with the idea for SwingPals.

"We use the game of golf, but our program is not about golf at all," Hodges said.

Golf skills are merely a side benefit to a program focused on mental health. Improving confidence, reducing anxiety and building leadership skills are assets that go far beyond the course.

"It's really about going into middle schools, delivering school-based programming that allows students to start to understand that they have the ability to make different choices," Hodges said.

Sixty students take part in the SwingPals after-school program. When in-school learning was canceled in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hodges reached out to a handful of families that were facing a food security emergency.

"Very quickly, 16 of our families identified that they had food shortages. I actually purchased $1,000 worth of food with my own resources and then delivered that food on Monday morning," Hodges said.

School officials helped cast an even wider net to those in crisis. Through SwingPals partners, Doug helped raise $30,000 and is now feeding 51 families each week including 175 children.

"The joy that we see on our families' faces is unbelievable," Hodges said.

With buses already in place for the after-school program, SwingPals was set up for this critical transition.

"We will probably need to have another round of funding to reach 75 to 100 families. That would be our capacity with our two buses," Hodges said.

SwingPals is also collaborating with the Durham Children's Initiative and Githens Middle School where it is delivering food on Thursdays and Fridays.

It's a big job covering a great need. If you'd like to help SwingPals, click here.
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