Hometown Heroes: Adriane Matthews Gray

Caleb Combs and Adriane Gray with Sarah, Cameron, Lalah and Alanna Combs.

Caleb Combs and Adriane Gray with Sarah, Cameron, Lalah and Alanna Combs.

By M.G. Angulo –

It may seem serendipitous that some of the very school halls Adriane Matthews Gray walked as a child, she would return to, this time as an adult with one specific mission – to end childhood hunger in her community.

Gray, who is a native to the Richmond-Rosenberg area and a graduate from Lamar Consolidated High School, created Lunches of Love in December 2009 to make sure students who depended on the free and reduced lunch program had a nutritious meal during those times when school was not in session. Weekends, holidays, the summertime break – those often beloved periods away from the classroom many students relish – Gray discovered were dreaded days for some students simply because it meant missed meals.

Gray asked herself how children in her own community that she cherishes so much could actually be hungry. With a volunteering background through the HOSTS (Helping One Student To Succeed) program and church missions, Gray decided it was time to open eyes and expose a problem that was running rampant – ignored or unseen – through the streets she had known as a child.

Richmond and Rosenberg, collectively, are Gray’s home, heart and soul. She and her husband of 15 years, Chris, and her extended family live in the Twin Cities, and if Gray can do anything to serve her home, she will. So what started out as a shocking conversation about local students going hungry transformed into a movement that captured the attention of many in the area, much like a small snowball that rolls downhill and causes an avalanche. “Children are our future. And no child should go hungry!” Gray proclaimed with passion.

“I had a small core team of awesome folks and friends who brainstormed on the logistics, and we took off running,” said Gray about forming the non-profit Lunches of Love. “It has been an amazing, life changing decision for me.”

Lunches of Love serves 4,000 plus children, and the program has expanded to include 15 Lamar Consolidated ISD schools and two Fort Bend ISD schools. Some of the schools Lunches of Love serves are the very same schools Gray attended as a child, and dedicating her energy to those campuses and its students is a feeling so enriching that if it could be bottled up and sold, its manufacturers would be rich beyond measure.

“Volunteering is truly an amazing experience and very rewarding,” Gray said. “I take great pride in knowing that I have helped play a small role in the lives of the children we feed.” Being involved with Lunches of Love is like breathing to Gray, who said she is “one hundred percent dedicated to the non-profit and ending childhood hunger.

“I have found my true passion,” said Gray. While she may have created Lunches of Love and serves as its director, Gray is modest about her role. She simply calls herself a volunteer. The vigor of a community, she said, can be found in its volunteers, the men and women who have the drive of worker bees, motivated and undeterred, to get a job done.

“There are many programs and projects that would not exist without volunteers,” Gray explained. “Lunches of Love is one of them. We are 100 percent volunteer-based and driven.

“In my opinion, volunteers have an enormous impact on the health and wellbeing of communities. It is an educational process; you learn a lot. It also encourages civic responsibility and makes your community stronger and kinder. Volunteering brings people together, and it’s good for you.”

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