published Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Miss Chattanooga spreads the word to all ages about providing food for hungry children

  • photo
    Chandler Lawson, the current Miss Chattanooga and a student at UTC, plans to attend law school at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville after graduation. In 2007, she started 5 Loaves 4 Kids, an organization that provides food to hungry children in her hometown of Tullahoma, Tenn.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

ABOUT HER

• Age: 22.

• Education: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior majoring in political science (international and comparative studies with a minor in communications).

• Hometown: Tullahoma, Tenn.

• Family: Parents, Dr. Dan and Karen Lawson; brothers Matt and Miles; dogs Peyton and Dylan; cats, Lucky and Rory.

Favorite movies

Any psychological thriller, including “The Usual Suspects,” “ Inception,” “Shutter Island,” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy.

Favorite books

“I am a total book nerd. I love Gabriel García Márquez. “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude” are fantastic. I also grew up with Harry Potter, so naturally, I love the series.

Favorite music

“I am a huge bluegrass/folk fan. I love The Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, Alison Krauss, The Civil Wars, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. I also love classic-rock groups including The Band; Buffalo Springfield; Creedence Clearwater Revival; Crosby, Stills & Nash; The Grateful Dead; Janis Joplin and Tom Petty.

Something someone would be surprised to learn about you

“I am an avid fisherman. I make my own Hula Hoops, and I am a self-proclaimed foodie.”

Miss Chattanooga is on a mission.

Chandler Lawson, 22, a senior political science major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said she is committed to feeding hungry children.

In 2007, she founded 5 Loaves 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides food to hungry children in her hometown, Tullahoma, Tenn. She said her role as Miss Chattanooga 2012 has provided a foundation for her to spread the word of the organization to other communities.

“Preparing for Miss Tennessee has afforded me so many opportunities to better myself and my community,” Lawson said. “I have been able to make 5 Loaves 4 Kids my personal platform and promote awareness for childhood hunger. I always had the drive to be a servant leader in my community, but through my pageant involvement, I have taken that drive and turned it into my reality.”

During her reign, she plans to educate schoolchildren about childhood hunger and how they can get involved in their own communities. She will ask students who are able to bring in canned goods for donation. Through the mini food drive, she said, students can learn about the character trait of caring.

“I want children to be aware that there are those who are suffering and that those children could be right next to them,” she said. “Awareness is key, and I feel that it is vital to educate others on issues that do not affect them. By teaching students to care for others, the idea will be planted that they can always give back to make their community a better place and, hopefully, they will carry that idea with them for the rest of their lives.”

For more about Lawson’s organization, visit www .5loaves4kidscharity.com.

Q How has starting an organization at such a young age affected your life?

A It has truly changed my life and given me an interest in working in the nonprofit world as well as in public service. I would love nothing more than to start a program in Chattanooga. I know if a small town like Tullahoma has such a dire need for food, then there most definitely is a need for such a program in Chattanooga. Tullahoma has been so amazing in helping make this program a success. There are food drives in banks, and churches and service organizations have been a huge part of our volunteer base and financial contributors.

Q What’s your background in pageants?

A Many of my friends are surprised about my late start. I dabbled in local competitions in high school, but my first state title was in 2008. My mom competed in the Miss Missouri pageant when she was younger, and we have always had a tradition of watching Miss America together. It is a neat legacy that we share.

Q What titles have you won?

A In 2008, I was Tennessee’s Junior Miss. It is a program for high school juniors that promotes scholarship, service and general well-roundedness. I was the interview winner for America’s Junior Miss, as well as the community service award winner. During my freshman year at UTC, I competed in my first Miss Tennessee local and walked away with the title of Miss Scenic City. I finished in the Top 10 during the Miss Tennessee competition that year. I was also Miss Chattanooga 2011 and finished as first runner-up to Miss Tennessee last summer. I am currently Miss Chattanooga 2012 and will compete for the third time for the title of Miss Tennessee in June.

Q What are the benefits of competitions?

A I love so many aspects of the Miss America organization. I firmly believe that the girls who compete in that system are some of the most intelligent, talented, articulate, fit, charming and personable women you will ever meet. I am certainly more cognizant of my physical fitness and more confident in my beliefs regarding the world around me.

The scholarships from Miss Tennessee and Junior Miss have almost paid for my first year in law school. I have been able to pay for my undergraduate degree with help from those organizations and will graduate debt-free. Preparing for Miss Tennessee has afforded me so many opportunities to better myself and my community.

Q You credit much of your success to your family. Explain.

A I have incredible parents. From a young age, my parents challenged me mentally by making dinner talk somewhat of a debate. We talked about politics, current events, international problems, deficits in public education and tough social issues that many parents try to avoid. My parents gave me a love of learning and, more than that, an open mind. Of course, their foundation in public education gave me little room to stray from excelling in school.

Q Why do you want to be an attorney?

A My love for reading and people gave me a natural inclination toward the law. I will be attending UT School of Law in the fall. However, if I were to win Miss Tennessee, I would then defer my acceptance and work for Governor Haslam and the Miss Tennessee Organization. If I were to win Miss Tennessee, I would then have the opportunity to make 5 Loaves 4 Kids a state or nationwide program. This program is incredibly close to my heart, and competing in the Miss America Organization has given me the opportunity to share 5 Loaves with others.

As far as what type of law I want to practice, I have no idea. I want to work in the public-interest sector, but I could see myself working with family law or education law. Hopefully, I will be able to continue to give back to my community by doing pro bono work and helping nonprofits get off the ground.

Q Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

A I hope to be a practicing attorney working for the state department. I hope to be a world traveler who still has a thirst for learning and an adventurous spirit. If I could be proficient in Arabic and an advanced yoga student by then, that would be a great added bonus.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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