By: Amanda Mullins, Generation SERVE Activity Lead
My family joined Generation SERVE in August 2017 and my daughter Maddie and I have both grown so much from our experiences. One of our favorite volunteer opportunities is Micah 6 of Austin’s food pantry. This activity provides an opportunity to interact on a very personal level with people who are disenfranchised in our community. We help them bag up all the wonderful food donations that they shop for in the pantry. Our interactions are mostly smiles, small talk and friendly exchanges.
After the first few times we volunteered together, I watched my shy girl open up and start making eye contact and really interacting with the pantry guests. It was beautiful! Discussions and dialog began happening at home, as well. Together, as a family, we’re able to talk about why people might need help from the pantry and the other ways we could help them. I could literally feel Maddie’s capacity for empathy and compassion growing, and when she said “But Mom, I want to help MORE!” my own heart expanded to the point of combustion.
Maddie soon came up with a plan. She created a sign up sheet for an event called “Help The Homeless – The Festival of Love”. She explained that it would be a party and everyone would bring food donations for the pantry. Our time at Micah 6 had obviously made more of an impression than I realized and she was moved to help in a bigger way. I asked Maddie what she liked most about volunteering at the pantry and she responded, “I like to see the people smile and it makes me happy to know that they have food to eat.” With that response, I knew we had to bring her idea to life, although it would require a lot of work and planning. Although it was clear she wasn’t expecting me to say yes to her idea, she excitedly agreed and we started brainstorming.
A date was set, invitations went out and we were excited about our event. We asked guests to bring non-perishable food donations and provided a link to the Micah 6 website so they could learn more about the cause. We created some art for a silent auction and set some goals for the party: $50 and 50 lbs of food. For our party activities, we set up a table where guests could make homeless care kits (consisting of a large Ziploc bag with a bottle of water, tuna pack, fruit cup, protein bar, socks and hand sanitizer) for families to keep in their car for when they come across someone in need. The kids filled their bags and colored some inspirational pictures to add for a boost of positivity.
We had a bounce house, snacks, drinks and some information posted about both Generation SERVE and Micah 6. Our guests overwhelmed us with food donations, exceeding our food goal with over 150 lbs of food! We also met our $50 monetary goal and let me tell you, my girl was pretty excited when we made that donation on the Micah 6 website. “When I saw how much food everyone brought, I was happy to see that there were people who cared as much as I do about feeding the hungry,” said Maddie.
The party was beyond successful and, more importantly, we all had fun and introduced our friends to a part of our life that has been so enriching. Thank you, Generation SERVE, for providing us with so many amazing opportunities to serve in our community!
Maddie poses with the food donations she collected at her Festival of Love event.
Maddie’s goal progress charts from her Festival of Love event.
Maddie making art for her silent auction fundraiser.