Our area boast some amazing individuals, who put the needs of others over their own personal well-being.
One woman in Fort Smith is the epitome of selflessness. And after nearly 20 years of giving back, she’s just scratching the surface.
Charolette Tidwell is 73 years old. But’s she’s never let her age slow her down. “73 years old and can work a 20 year old under the table.” says Tidwell.
Tidwell is the founder of Antioch Youth and Family Food Pantry, helping low-income residents in Fort Smith, something she once knew as a child. Tidwell says, “I’m a believer in people. I’m a believer if you fall, you can still get up. My growing up was in poverty. I know of the outdoor toliets of the silver tubs for baths, but it was happy beginning.”
A retired nurse, Tidwell found herself starting a new career. It began with a trip to the supermarket, after witnessing a senior citizen purchase cat food as a way to get protein. “I ask the checker, when she left the counter, why did you write her name down? And she said that we’re writing the name down because the elderly are eating cat and dog food. I left that counter that day and I purposed that I was going to make a difference in the lives of our elderly.” says Tidwell.
It brought new perspective, to a growing issue. “When I retired, I was not only able to hear struggle, but I was able effectively see struggle.”
Tidwell took action. In 2000, she used money from her own pension to create the Antioch Youth & Family Food Bank. Tidwell said, “We do a mobile pantry for 1500 and I want to expand that. Elderly don’t have transportation. Elderly don’t have the funds.”
Along with feeding senior citizens each month, Miss Tidwell also gives food and snacks to children in Fort Smith schools. “We surround ourselves with children from several schools. We have a community garden that’s three acres where families go out and are able to pick their food. We deliver to veterans and the seniors.”
Tidwell has garnered national attention for her community work. In 2015, NBC Nightly News profiled her service. She’s also made appearances on daytime TV, and articles in national geographic and the BBC Network. Notoriety aside, Tidwell says the overall focus should be on the problem. “One think that the attention has done is focused americas minds on those who struggle day after day.”
Despite her age, Miss Tidwell continues to press forward, saying there’s still more work to be done and a tradition to keep. She says, “As I’ve aged, the legacy of caring is critcally important. I did that in the hospital. I did that in the nursing home industry. And I have to at this point of my life, show it.”
Antioch Food Pantry feeds about 7,000 people a month and close to a 500,000 per year. Tidwell also says the biggest need right now is donations, both in food and supplies and financial.
Click HERE if you want to help.