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'Stella the Sweet Potato' helps Oxford students fight hunger
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A children’s book about the humble, but beloved, sweet potato is helping to raise money for student volunteers at Oxford College.

"Stella the Sweet Potato," written by Kim David and her daughter, Stella, 5, tells the story of a sweet potato learning about what happens during a "potato drop."

An actually "potato drop" was held at the college in April for Global Youth Service Day. At the event, local farmers "dropped" and donated crops that were not to be sold in supermarkets due to a minimal blemish. Students bagged the produce and distributed it to local agencies, food pantries and local residents in need.

"After Oxford College had a potato drop in April for Global Youth Service Day, we started planning for our upcoming Global Youth Service Day, which will take place in April 2014. One of the things was how were we going to raise funds, because it cost about $3,200 for the potato drop," David said. "So we were playing around with that idea …"

"I was talking to my daughter, who was 4 at the time, and the idea just came: ‘Why don’t we put together a book explaining to children what the potato drop is, but at the same time raise funds through selling the book for our future potato drops?’"

David began writing the book, with the help of Stella, drawing the character and coming up with a name. She said, "Originally, I was kind of playing around with ‘Sally the Sweet Potato,’ and she (Stella) said, ‘My name starts with an S, can we call her Stella,’ and I said, ‘Yes, we can call her Stella."

David, who has served at Oxford College for the past four years as an assistant director of student development, said this was the first book she has written, and it has had great response since it was published in July.

"The organization that we worked with to put on the potato drop, the Society of Saint Andrew (hunger relief nonprofit), has embraced the book and,… shared it nationwide with their organization," David said. "It’s been doing well with Amazon and then just locally through different groups who do potato drops in the Southeast. … They order it and then sell it at their sites."

So far, David said 357 books have been sold on Amazon. She said all of the royalties collected are donated to the student organization Volunteer Oxford, to help fund future potato drops and other hunger programs and projects.

"I have seen the impact of service not just on the community, but on the volunteers and the students who perform the service, and the impact that it makes in students having a passion to do something and to continue on," David said. "The end result is group partnerships in the community, which is something I very much believe in, that I support and is very close to my heart. This is just one other way that I can help contribute and see that continue."

David, who will soon be a library specialist at Oxford, said she has already had several people contact her about writing children’s books for their organizations. She said she’s willing to do anything that she can to help student volunteers.

"Working with nonprofits in education, you always know that you are on budget, and that it might be hard to raise money sometimes," David said. "So if there is something I do can help make that a little bit easier so that more students can have the opportunity, then that’s something I want to do."