Grandma Helps Her Grandson Fight Hunger in Florida

Daily Point of Light # 7819 May 24, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Peggy Graham. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Joshua’s Heart Foundation started because a four-year-old boy received $20 from his grandmother, Zula (Peggy) Graham. Peggy told her grandson he could spend the money as he liked, on himself. However, while the family was driving to church that same day, Joshua saw an unhoused man and decided to give the money to him after his mother read him the sign held by the man. On the sign, the man had written “I will work for food.” Joshua told his mother he wanted to give the man his $20, but his mother suggested he give the man $1 instead, fearing that the man would spend it on drugs or alcohol. Joshua insisted he wanted to give the man the entire $20. Eventually he won out and gave the man the $20.

Even as a four-year-old, Joshua recognized that hunger was a problem and wanted at that moment to make a difference. After leaving church and going home, he told his aunts that he gave the hungry man his $20. He begged his two aunts and mother to help him feed folks on the street.

Volunteer organizations usually don’t accept four-year-olds, but Joshua was undeterred. Peggy volunteered her kitchen to prepare meals for unhoused individuals. She, along with Joshua’s mom and aunts, prepared complete meals for these people. After two years of cooking for the unhoused in Peggy’s kitchen, Joshua started his own hunger-relief organization called Joshua’s Heart Foundation, which has no age restrictions for volunteers. The foundation is primarily a youth-led organization and relies on youth volunteers, but there is also a lot of community engagement. Peggy continues to be an integral part of the efforts to end hunger, even in her 70s. She is always at the pantry except on weekends.

In addition to providing food and other necessities, Joshua’s Heart Foundation also educates community members on how to end poverty and hunger and how to prepare healthy meals. To date, the foundation has served more than half a million individuals.

What inspires you to volunteer?

I was born in Jamaica. I’ve been living in Florida for over 40 years. Growing up, we had very little. Sometimes we went to school without shoes but we were still always trying to help others. My mother taught us to share. I taught that to my children, too: pray, go to church and help where you can.

We all die and leave the world with nothing so while we’re alive, we should be doing the right thing and sharing. It’s all about sharing.

Tell us about your volunteer role.

I have been volunteering with Joshua’s Heart Foundation since 2005. These days, I’m at the food pantry three or four times a week. We have a few organizations that donate food, so I help track the expected delivery so we can be efficient in distributing the food items to families. We also have a few community volunteers who help us sort, pack and distribute food.

I supervise the volunteers and welcome and onboard new volunteers at the pantry during the week. I help unpack donated food items, I help prepare and distribute groceries and supplies to families who need them. I also assign volunteers to deliver food items and other donated goods, and make sure that enough food and supplies are going to the recipients during the week.

Joshua’s Heart Foundation volunteer Peggy Graham with her grandson, Joshua’s Heart Foundation founder Joshua Williams.

What inspired you to get started with this initiative?

Joshua inspired me! Even as a small child he always loved giving things to people and feeding people. In our family, we try our best in whatever we do. We are behind him 100% when it comes to doing good things for the community. How could we not help? One of Joshua’s favorite quotes comes from Myles Munroe, and it’s something we can all live by:
“True leaders don’t invest in buildings. Jesus never built a building. They invest in people. Why? Because success without a successor is failure. So, your legacy should not be in buildings, programs or projects; your legacy must be in people.”

What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization?

We would love to expand to help more people. God makes the ways for us to help. We have outgrown the space we are in, and we need a larger space. I know that God will provide that space when the time is right.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

I know a lot of our recipients by name now. It just feels good to know I am doing something for somebody. We might be afraid to give somebody money because we don’t know what they will do with it, but we do know what they will do with the food we give them. I know they need food, so we give food, toiletries and household items. So often, people are in tears and overwhelmed with gratitude.

Joshua’s Heart Foundation wants all children to be fed when they go to school. You can’t learn when your belly is empty. When kids are stealing it’s because they are desperate. I pack up extra food for kids who might otherwise be tempted to steal because they are hungry. I give them extra. I help them feel that someone is here for them, someone cares and someone loves them.

I never turn anyone away. I don’t want anybody to go hungry.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

God wants us to help each other. God wants us to share. When you see a need, just help.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

Find a volunteer organization you’re interested in, get some information, and see if it’s something you want to do. People there will help you and guide you. You don’t have to figure out what to do on your own. Most people who volunteer with Joshua’s Heart Foundation love it and want to come back again and again

What do you want people to learn from your story?

We are all God’s children. When you see someone in need, help. I inspire others to help. There are so many people in need. We can all share. Everybody has something. Be kind to each other. Help each other. We have to be beautiful from the inside and always remember to pray.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Peggy? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Jarmila Gorman