Young Volunteers Make a Difference
author & photographer by Katie Larson
Lakeshore Elementary School teacher Kelly Ballard believes in showing her fifth grade students the value of community service and volunteering. Every year, she encourages her students to volunteer their time and energy at the Feed My People Food Bank. But this year, she had the opportunity to partner up with the food bank, the Eau Claire County Aging and Disability Resource Center, and Meals on Wheels to have her students learn about and help address senior hunger. On October 23, students, parents, older and younger siblings, and various community volunteers came together to pack boxes of emergency food in support of Smiles for Seniors.
“It is an experience I hope they remember and build upon for years to come.” – Kelly Ballard, Lakeshore Elementary teacher
“When my students volunteer, they know they are truly helping others, and that is a lesson that extends far beyond our fifth grade year together,” explained Ballard. “It is an experience I hope they remember and build upon for years to come.” Ballard’s class was joined by a former student who is now in seventh grade at DeLong Middle School. Mason remembered participating in an event like this in fifth grade and wanted to continue to support the effects of feeding those less fortunate alongside his brother Everett.
Although emergency food box distribution has been taking place at FMP since 2013, this year’s event is the first time the food bank has reached out to local teachers to get the students involved and engaged. That collaborative effort lead to every Lakeshore Elementary School student making cards for the seniors, which were also included in the boxes.
“Our staff thought it would provide an opportunity for youth to gain a better understanding about seniors and hunger,” shared Suzanne Becker, Assistant Director at Feed My People Food Bank. “Many of the recipients of the boxes are unable to leave their homes, which in turn can lead to loneliness and depression. Our hope is that the cards the students have made will put a smile on their faces.”
Additional groups wanted to get involved with the Smiles for Senior initiative as well. Xcel Energy volunteers who worked with Focus on Energy donated 1,500 energy-efficient light bulbs as part of the ENERGY STAR Change the World tour. These light bulbs will be distributed within the food boxes and to various seniors who receive food from Meals on Wheels.
To learn how you can help address senior hunger or volunteer at Feed My People, please visit www.fmpfoodbank.org or call (715) 835-9415.