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CSA Finalist: Betty McCollum

For 17 years, this Melbourne woman has been helping with her town's food pantry that feeds dozens of hungry families every week

MELBOURNE, AR - Fighting hunger and feeding hope, it's been Betty McCollum's mission since retiring in 1996.

She's now being recognized for her hard work and giving spirit.

If you want to take a trip down memory lane in Melbourne (Izard County), drop by the Manna House and ask for Betty McCollum.

"Many years ago, my cousin and I, Sue Crisco, our mothers were sisters. We interviewed our mothers because we wanted to know what life was like in Izard county when they were growing up," says McCollum.

Those first two interviews soon turned into ten and Betty and her sister had enough stories to fill a book.

"She's written eleven books now and each one has ten to eleven stories of folks that live in our area," says long time friend Arnold Harris. "That's a keepsake. That's something special for them and their families forever."

"We interviewed a lady out at Sage and she died within just a few months," says McCollum. "Her family was very grateful that we had done that."

For someone accustomed to asking the questions though, it was a little harder for Betty to sit down and tell her story.

"It's wonderful and I feel very humbled," says McCollum. "I don't feel deserving."

Longtime friends Arnold Harris and Mayor Shannon Womack were more than happy to help.

"She has always been a beautiful lady," says Womack. "Boys always notice pretty girls."

"She is very special," says Harris. "She is very humble. When I went to her and asked her if I could nominate her, she really didn't want me to because she didn't want any recognition."

When not writing books, Betty spends time here at the Manna House where she has volunteered for 17 years.

"The sales that we get from the thrift store go to the food room," says McCollum. "They take that money along with good donations that we get and they go to Norfork and they buy food. We feed a lot of hungry people here in Melbourne."

"I hear of someone every day that has to go to the Manna House to get their food for the next month," says Womack. "I think they probably feed 40 or 50 families every week."

Betty also coordinates the Backpack for Kids Program along with other volunteers from Melbourne Methodist Church, filling and delivering food and clothing to area families. Her giving spirit knows no boundaries.

"It gives you a good sense of satisfaction to know that you have helped somebody," says McCollum.
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