In the last 18 months we have experienced substantial growth in our programming. The growth has come primarily in our School Pantry Program. We are now in partnership with 10 schools in 4 counties and we are ready to move forward with another 14 schools that would represent 7 counties. This parent-school staff relationship building program continues to grow in numbers of families who attend each month. Schools are seeing a record number of parents engage with them. This slow burn, continual interaction is providing great opportunities for parents to learn what is going on at school, discuss the progress their child is making and develop a positive impression about school visits. The big win is that the children are exposed to positive discussions every month about their education which sets the stage for improvement in academic achievement. We all want and need for these kids to do well in school so our communities can continue to produce self-sustaining young adults who are ready to further their education or technical training and fill the jobs we have available now and see in our future.
This program growth needs more volunteer engagement to allow it to expand into schools who have already expressed an interest in partnering with us. This is a great opportunity for a church to “adopt” a school and supply the volunteer needs on a regular basis. It takes a group of 4-5 people to meet the delivery truck and get the food into the building and set it up for the distribution to happen after school. It takes about 12-15 people to come to the school just before the distribution happens (usually around 4 or 4:30) and pass the food out to families until approximately 6-6:30. This normally happens once per month at each location. The total time commitment would be in the neighborhood of 3 hours per month if you volunteered for the delivery crew or the distribution crew. There is also the opportunity for the volunteer to engage deeper with the school and consider participating in a mentoring program or volunteer to be a chaperone for a field trip. These opportunities can provide a positive impression on a young child for a lifetime.
I ran across a simple explanation for Categories of Volunteering provided by BRiCKs Alliance, Inc. It breaks down volunteering in 4 ways, but I’m sure there is some overlap. 1) Give – Provide basic needs (clothing, food, money, etc.). I have something from which others can benefit. 2) Do – Provide time, skills-based support, etc. I really do not know what it is like to be in another’s situation, but I provide support in ways that I hope will help. 3) – Engage (Volunt-Hearing) My friend needs my assistance but they define what they need. Realization that this is part of my life, not a “project” I learn from the relationship about myself and my community. Two-way relationship! 4) Advocate – I have a broader understanding of my community and I learn from my relationships about systemic barriers. (I am dissatisfied with the current state.) All that said, every important effort requires collective energy to be accomplished.
There are deep needs in this community. Everyone can has something to offer from the most gifted to the least, even if you are in need, you have something to offer. We teach our children by the way we engage to assist the community to become a better place. A place where they may want to live because they can find a job, their kids can get a great education and the community works together to raise the boat we are all in. We need a few groups to work a few hours once a month so relationships will grow and kids will be in a better place because of it. Will you help? You may just love it.
Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies and programs provides food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.