Mozelle Howie Peacemaking Scholarship Winner: Shawn Matthews

Every year, the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina awards the Mozelle Howie Peacemaking Scholarship to a high school senior entering college in the fall. The scholarship is $1,000, and it’s based on an essay submitted by the applicants.

The essay must answer the following question: “What do you see as the most pressing peacemaking issue of our time, and how will you seek to address it through your studies and beyond?” Out of the numerous applications from across our Presbytery (which contains approximately 180 congregations), GMPC’s own Shawn Matthews was awarded the scholarship! The essay discusses the issue of hunger, as well as Shawn’s passion to address hunger through many different experiences. You may find his submission below. Way to go, Shawn!

The Most Pressing Peacemaking Issue of Concern to Me

When a person sees the term “Peacemaking” used, he/she often thinks of world peace and
feels that one person is insignificant in the total scheme of things. However, that is not
necessarily true because one person can make a difference in his/her own corner of the world,
and that can have a ripple effect beyond that spot on the map. I view hunger to be a concern for everyone. There can be no real peace in the world while there are food-insecure people because not knowing when or if they will have another meal causes people to harbor anxiety rather than peace. In a world where an enormous amount of food can be produced, no man, woman, or child should ever have to go to bed hungry. I have learned about the hunger problem in my own community, and I want to be a part of the solution. I plan to graduate from a four-year university with a history major, earn a law degree, and return to Sampson County in a law practice that serves primarily farmers in Eastern North Carolina.

Volunteering in my community has been important to me during my high school years.
The Salemburg Christian Food Bank serves the community on the third Saturday of every
month. It is a non-profit organization that relies solely on donations. Many of these donations are from local farmers and grocery stores. The program was established by five gentlemen who saw the need to help food-insecure people in their community. Individuals must register on their first visit and give their names each time they return, ensuring that one member from each household receives items each month. Since 2016, I have helped pack groceries and load cars for those obtaining food from the bank. I have also helped with deliveries for those who are registered but are unable to come in person. A large percentage of those who use the bank’s services are elderly. Most of them are on fixed incomes, and the food bank helps to supplement the small amount of food they can buy. Seeing this need made me want to do more; I felt that it was my duty to help them, and I wanted to find a way to help even more. I had an idea, but I could not implement it alone, so I sought the help of people in positions to assist me. I have played basketball for Clinton High School for four years, and this participation gave me an opportunity to initiate my project. First, I contacted the athletic director at Clinton High School and the basketball coaches, who were all very willing to assist me with my vision.

With the help of the athletic director and basketball coaches, I organized “Soups for
Hoops” in 2018 to provide the food bank with additional supplies. Admission tickets to several home basketball games were granted a reduction in price for those who brought at least three items for the food bank. I was able to use those games that usually have the largest number of people in attendance. I approached a local dance studio and asked them to provide halftime shows for the games, which they did. That brought in additional revenue from parents and friends who wanted to see the performances. It also brought in many more supplies for the cause.

I continued the project during basketball season this year, and I have arranged for “Soups for
Hoops” to continue for several years to come. This project gave me the opportunity to make a
small difference in the reduction of hunger in the community in which I have grown up.
The volunteer work that I have done with this organization has taught me a lot. I have
learned that there are many benevolent people in my community and in the world. I have learned how important food is to all of us, especially to those who may not have enough. I am so proud to come from a community that depends heavily on the agricultural industry and tries to take care of its own and those beyond its borders.

My first job at age fourteen was for a cantaloupe and watermelon farmer in Sampson
County. I learned that farming requires good physical health, strength, good judgement, good
organization, and the ability to work fast when necessary. It is important for the farmer supplying his customers that he removes his crop from the field on time. There are so many things that the farmer cannot control, such as the weather or, in our current situation, a pandemic. Farming requires much flexibility, but regardless of the situation, people still need food on the table to sustain life, and the farmers work diligently to provide that resource.
I hope to return to Sampson County in 2027 as an attorney. My grandfather has been very
influential in my life, and I want to follow his good example and work for farmers in this area
who need legal assistance. His practice is in Clinton, North Carolina, and I hope to take over that practice in the future; I would be the fourth generation of my family in that practice. Most of his work involves assisting farmers across the state with land purchases, loans, and deeds. He has done extensive work for blueberry farmers, truck crop farmers, tobacco and soybean farmers, and hog, chicken, and turkey farmers. I plan to do as he has done because I see the importance of assisting farmers in their efforts to produce food for the masses.

I plan to continue to do work for the Salemburg Christian Food Bank and to do other
volunteer work to help those who are food-insecure, not only in Sampson County but also in a
wider geographical area.

There can truly be no peace for people who must worry about having enough food to
sustain their bodies and souls. That is why food-insecurity is the most pressing peacemaking
issue of concern to me, and I feel that by working together, people can address this need and
make a real difference in the lives of those less fortunate and hungry, both in their local areas and beyond.

Shawn plans to attend the University of South Carolina in Fall 2020.

Shared by Steve Wilkins

3 thoughts on “Mozelle Howie Peacemaking Scholarship Winner: Shawn Matthews”

  1. Shawn, congratulations on the scholarship, and I applaud your maturity in recognizing the connections between food-secure and food-insecure people. Keep GMPC updated on both your journey through school and your journey in helping others.

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