This is a guest blog post by HIP volunteer Stephanie Olson about her recent volunteer projects with Hunger Intervention Program to benefit Lake City families.
By Stephanie Olson
As I have become involved with HIP over the last few months, I keep having the same phrase come into my head. I keep thinking to myself that this feels real. This feels like something that my kids and I can do that is a real and important thing. That might sound small but I have been shown in several ways over the last few weeks that it is far from it.
Maple Leaf Lutheran Church Mobile Packing Party
Recently, our Sunday School kids packed up 70 HIP packs for area school kids to take home over a weekend. The entire church donated money to buy food for the packs and we used our Sunday School time to create them. It was a great activity. The kids ranged in age from 3 to 14 and every single kid (and their parents) helped. They all got to pack items and understand that it was for a kid just like them. Afterward, we talked about how these might go to a child at their school or a kid that they might be playing with at the playground.
It was so important to one of our Sunday School students that she was adamant that she come even though she had to leave after fifteen minutes to go to her soccer game. She wanted to help! HIP gave her that chance.
Meeting with Molly Engle from Olympic Hills Elementary School
I had the opportunity to speak to Molly Engle who works as a Care Coordinator through Sound Mental Health at Olympic Hills Elementary School. She works intensely with families at the school and helps connect them with community services that can help their kids be successful in school.
I wanted to find out more about the real lives that HIP impacts. There are 20 children at the school currently getting help from HIP. She knows these kids. She knows their families. She knows the school and the community.
“It’s nice to have a tangible thing to give to families to help them,” she said. A smile crossed her face as she remembered the huge packs that students were given over spring break to help get them through the week. “A lot of the families don’t have transportation so even getting to the food bank is difficult.” She likes the way that HIP makes it so easy for families and impacts their lives in a direct way.
Engle also described the way that the entire community at Olympic Hills has rallied around each other. One of the teachers pointed out to Engle how strong the school’s sense of community is. She described being touched by the PTA parent who goes each week to pick up the HIP packs and brings them to the school. She commented to Engle that, “It’s such an amazing thing that this family who doesn’t even directly benefit from the program feels such a sense of community that she goes and gets them on her own time.” The parent just wants to help. HIP gave her that chance.
Engle also says that the families receiving that help feel a tremendous sense of gratitude and love being a part of the community as well. One family, she said, received help for a few weeks and then let her know that they no longer needed the extra food they were getting. “We’re good,” they said. They wanted to be sure that another school family who needed more help took their spot. It’s the same story: the family wanted to help. HIP gave them that chance.
When asked about the students who are helped, Engle had a story that came to mind right away. “One of my students said one day, ‘I was so excited to put the food on our shelf so it looked like we had a lot of food.’”
You can’t get much more real than that.