FARMERS BRANCH (CBSDFW.COM) – For many North Texas children, the summers are long, hot and hungry. Without the safety net of free school breakfasts and lunches, many simply miss meals. But, that’s where Bea’s Kids has been making a difference for 23 years. And it all started with a peanut butter sandwich, and an incredible act of kindness.

“I went out to throw my trash, and I found a little boy digging through the dumpster trying to find something to eat,” says Bea Salazar, founder of Bea’s Kids. “And I took the bread away from him and he started crying. All I had was some peanut butter and jelly, so I brought him home with me and I fed him and I sent him home. And a few minutes later, there’s some more children at the door saying ‘is it true you’re giving away free sandwiches’? I said, ‘no; but, if you’re hungry, I’ll feed you’.” And she did. The next day there were more children and soon Salazar was turning to local churches and charities to keep her pantry stocked with peanut butter and bread.

“I like to joke that they gave me so much peanut butter, that if you look in the back of my pantry now, I’ll bet you find some back there!”

At the time, Salazar was a single mother with five kids of her own, and recovering from back surgery. Still, she says the hungry child at the dumpster moved her from self-pity to passion, and taught her an eye-opening lesson about the lives of the working poor.

“When I found that child, I was very surprised to see that some of these children were not being fed until the evening when their parents would get home from work.”

In the two decades since, that single sandwich has led to thousands of meals for needy children and Bea’s Kids is now a thriving non-profit. The community outreach includes parenting classes, after school tutoring and a summer camp at Christ United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch. Salazar says none of the program would be possible without their volunteers and longtime supporters. Local teens are helping out with the summer camp.

“They take them swimming, they’ve been to the museum, and anything that’s educational, we do here.”

Retired teacher Floss Intravaia has been with Salazar as a volunteer since the beginning.

“It was an interesting thing to see these kids come and want to do schoolwork because they had someone there to help them, “ says Intravaia. “It is a testament to the power of kindness.”

And purpose. As Salazar celebrates her birthday today—her 69th—she takes pride not only in the years spent; but, the lives touched. And there are the phone calls from afar reminding her of how much her efforts have mattered. “Especially when they call to tell me, ‘I just bought my new house, I just bought a beautiful car, I have a good job!’ Those are the success stories.”

So, surrounded by little arms offering birthday hugs and big smiles, and Salazar declares that she’ll retire, “when I turn 125.” After all, there are too many kids who still need her.

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