UNSUNG HERO: Harrisburg teens help feed the hungry - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

UNSUNG HERO: Harrisburg teens help feed the hungry

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HARRISBURG (WSIL) -- A Harrisburg Middle School student is inspiring others by his volunteerism.

He's a star student by day and a diligent volunteer by night.    

"You don't realize how much is going on around you really until you stop and pay attention," said Briley Houston.   

Every week the eighth-grader goes to the First Presbyterian Church Annex to help feed people in need.

"We really do care for them and if there's ever anything that they need, we can do as much as we can."   

Heaven's Kitchen feeds the hungry a hot meal every Tuesday night. Briley helps greet and serve the crowd and then goes on deliveries to feed the shut-in.

"My Mom would have to pretty much make me go to stuff like that and just seeing him ready to help was just really nice. It was refreshing," said Harrisburg High School senior Callie Oxford.         

The mission was led by the Fowler-Bonan Foundation and first opened up on September 11, 2018. The 14-year-old admits he was a little apprehensive at first.

"After the first week, the inaugural week, I just kind of really got into it and I was like, you know what, now every Tuesday I look forward to going and you know, it kind of brightens up my Tuesday's," said Briley.

Foundation Chairman Dale Fowler said Briley has not missed a Tuesday since the mission opened. That's more than 30 times.

"It's really encouraging to see that spirit and that passion to serve others in our young people and so Briley is really an example for others," said Fowler. 

It's also a true statement for Callie, who also volunteers at the kitchen and was impressed by Briley early on.    

"You can tell it's all with good intentions. It's never for people to praise him. It's always just to show love and be compassionate and it's just so nice. I just don't think that there's anybody quite like him," added Callie.  

Heaven's Kitchen Chairwoman Dawn Horn also works at the middle school so she sees Briley every day. Even though she only got to know him this year, Dawn says he's been like a son to her and calls him her right hand.

"He stands alone sometimes but I do know, he stands up for what he believes in, that's not always popular in this age group, but it's also very freeing," said Dawn. 

She says Briley is a on Student Council and has even gotten some of his classmates to volunteer.

He says the real example has been his parents who got him to go that first time. 

"I don't really feel like a hero. I mean, I think it's just something that you should do anyway," said Briley.

Briley will be headed to high school next year and says he hopes to be a police officer someday. In the meantime, he also plans to continue at Heaven's Kitchen for as long as he can. 

The kitchen is open to anyone from 5 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday night.

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