By Jim and Patrice Lia
When Loaves & Fishes moved into our current building back in 2011, more and more groups of adults wanted to volunteer. There were parents who wanted to bring their children along, and L&F wasn’t equipped to handle young people.
My husband Jim and I organized our first event in 2013 after our grandchildren asked what we did at “the pantry” since we spent so much time there. We organized a trial run birthday party for volunteers’ grandchildren. We deemed the experiment a success, so we initiated KidsCare2.
We offered a one hour program where groups of grade-school-aged children could come for one hour and offered a history of our food pantry, a tour of the market, a great photo op on the scale where they could weigh their donations, and a hands-on service project.
We had such a demand for groups to volunteer that we went from one day a week to 2 days a week.
In 2015, we expanded our focus from the nutritional needs of our clients’ children, to include the nutritional needs of our visitors, too. We included in our introduction the food pyramid of nutrition, asking our young visitors what constitutes a nutritious breakfast, a well-balanced school lunch, etc. We introduced the terms food insecurity, food deserts, and poverty.
What we enjoy most about the program is the look of accomplishment we see in the children’s eyes after they have completed the service project. We feel that each child leaves our program feeling that they have had a memorable experience, and sometimes life changing.
While our goal is to educate children about the world around them, we are also planting the seeds of volunteerism. We want to encourage them to continue doing works without reaping personal reward… to help out for the greater good.
Jim and Patrice Lia have been volunteers since 2009 at Loaves & Fishes Community Services. For volunteer inquiries contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit loaves-fishes.org.