When Sagen Woolery first heard a divine call to help others, she was only in the second grade. It took two years to get things rolling in her town of Warner Robins, Georgia, but after two summers she and 130 child volunteers had served 3,600 meals. "I had been wondering what happens to the children during the summer when the free-lunch program ends at the close of the school year—what did they eat?" says Sagen, now 12. "If they couldn't afford lunch for nine months of the year, what did they do for the other three months?"

These were heavy questions for an 8-year-old to ask, her parents thought. But Sagen wasn't just asking questions; she wanted solutions. When Sagen decided the community needed a summer feeding program for children, her parents said, "Great; now you need to find a way to do it," recalls her mother, Pam Woolery.

"We gave her some guidance and pointed her in the direction of where to look for support in Warner Robins, but we stressed that it was her responsibility to make it work."

Gentle Army mess sergeant

Sagen's parents suggested she go to Sam Guimond, a member of the family's church, Sacred Heart Catholic. The elderly Guimond, who oversaw a soup kitchen for many years, was polite but didn't take the child seriously.

"I kept asking him so many questions that he eventually started ignoring me at church, but I just kept after him for a year," Sagen says with a shy smile.

Eventually Guimond saw her level of commitment and began to mentor her, teaching her how to organize a feeding kitchen and planting ideas about how to bring her vision to reality.

What her parents thought would be a short-term preoccupation soon became a burning passion. Before long, third-grader Sagen was on the Warner Robins speaking circuit, ...

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