My name is Jessica Foster and I am finishing my 2nd year serving with the Lenawee Community Foundation (LCF) partnering with Adrian Middle School 7/8 building. The first half of my day, I spend with the Foundation which houses the Volunteer Center of Lenawee. The second half of my day, I spend at AMS 7/8, supervising the after-school program, The Maple Youth Club (MYC). An active volunteer in the community, especially with K-12 students, I was thrilled when asked to apply for his VISTA position! I had no idea what an impact was about to be made in my life, how many eye-opening experiences I was about to have, and how humbling this journey was going to be.
The MYC room is also a registered Food Pantry, and houses the food for several programs under the umbrella of LCF, including a food pantry for the students at AMS 7/8, and Weekend Snack Sacks, lunch brown bags filled with healthy snacks for K-6 students to take home on a Friday ensuring several healthy snacks over the weekend or one healthy meal. On Sept. 11th, we got in 3 tons of food. Yes, 6,000 lbs! With several volunteers, including students from inside the school, it took a couple of hours to unload and store!
In our community, our citizens are struggling with the most basic needs, and in my position, I am able to attack one of the most basic, Hunger. Food insecurity is something I see just about every day in my VISTA position, I am better able to identify trends, and report to the LCF. The word is spreading about the need in my community through education, especially in our youth. And, it has been one of the most pleasant realizations in my 2 years here that these young people are yearning for something to get behind. They might be hungry, they might be in an economically-depressed home situation, but they are no less passionate or eager. When we give them a new perspective of the world around them and get them out of their shell, they are ambassadors of gab, champions of social media, and have grown in self-respect through compassion towards others. They might not have a lot, material-wise, but they have an opinion, and being a part of something so good, gives them a sense of identity in the community, and makes them feel like they haven’t been overlooked, forgotten. They love volunteering when we get a food shipment in, they talk their friends into helping and share what we have said to them.
Due to the other half of my position being located at the Volunteer Center of Lenawee, I’m in a great position to share with them when their hunger extends to doing more good works, and I find volunteer opportunities for them. I have several students that have moved on to the high school that come back and volunteer in MYC, daily, helping 7/8 students with homework and playing chess and other board games with them. I have one 9th grader that now volunteers regularly in the Lenawee County Historical Museum, digitizing information, and completing an inventory list. In fact, as community service is a requirement for graduation for Adrian Public Schools, a high school counselor has shown curiosity at an increase of students completing their requirements in their 9th grade year instead of waiting until their senior year. I hope this trend with be one of the biggest impacts of my service!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!