Out of all of things I have featured on my site to do in Utah County, this one has been my favorite so far.
To be honest, when Community Action Services contacted me, I didn't really know what they did. The invited me to come down and check the place out and I was blown away.
As a family, we try to do something together every Monday night. Did you know Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo does Family Activity Nights? Every Monday night from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM there is a family night for individuals of ALL ages. During the activity, participants will have an opportunity to learn about poverty in our local community and perform a small service project.
What a PERFECT way to teach your family about service, and helping others in the community. You can schedule your family night at email@example.com or by calling 801-691-5237.
When I scheduled my Family Activity Night, I was impressed that they asked the ages of all of the people I was bringing, so they could plan something age appropriate.
This (above) is Eric Lafferty. He is the communications director at Community Action Services. He is super nice, and knows a ton about everything Community Action Services offers. He gave us our tour of Community Action Services, and answered all of the questions we had.
Check out all of these crates of food. Eric explained that they weigh all of their food and have everything sorted so that they can get to it when they need it. He explained that while it's good to donate cans to a food drive, donating money is also another way to make a big difference. Through programs with local grocery stores, the food bank staff can get 17 pounds of food with just $1. Still want to donate cans? Think about donating canned meat - they are very low on that. Think about donating pastas. They need a lot of that as well.
Eric also explained that their demand for food doubles when the weather turns cold. Did you know there are enough people living in poverty in Utah County alone to fill up LaVell Edwards Stadium? 1/3 of those people are children.
Schools have free lunch programs available to help needy children that don't have enough to eat. However, some of those children need food on the weekends as well. Community Action Services had us fill 100 bags for kids at local schools. 4 schools participate in this program, one of them being Sharon Elementary where I attended 5th and 6th grade. Eric explained that the following Friday, 100 students would come into a room, open their backpacks, and they would be given a bag with food in it for them to eat over the weekend. The program is designed to help those who are less fortunate, while still being discrete so people don't know who is being helped and who isn't.
We lined up and filled each bag with a juice box, peaches, ramen noodles, fruit snacks, crackers, and fruit bars. Between Eric, 2 other employees, my mom, my brother, Lily, and me, we filled 100 bags in about 10 minutes.
I loved this activity because even Lily could help. She had fun putting fruit bars into each bag.
Also, for the older people, it gave us a chance to ask a bunch of questions in an informal setting and talk about what we can do to really help.
They gave us a tour of the rest of the facility. Did you know that Community Action Services has a community kitchen? There are laws and regulations in place to make sure food that is being sold to the public is handled properly (by someone with a food handler's permit) and prepared in an adequate location. Community Action Services rents out use of its kitchen for people trying to start out (catering, or making food to sell) at just $5 an hour, or $25 a day. The night we went, they were making muffins (below.) I love that there are programs like this in my community.
The day after my visit, Eric sent me the following email:
"Jessica, I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet with you and your family. I hope that you enjoyed serving together as a family. It’s amazing what a difference we can make in as little as one hour. On Friday, 100 kids will receive the backpacks we assembled and they won’t know who made them or how it happened, but they won’t have to worry about if they will have food to eat this weekend. Thank you for taking the time to come and help. If you would like to come again, please don’t hesitate to contact me."
So...what can you do? Check out their urgent needs site for ideas. If you can't fit a Monday night in to volunteer with your family, go another night! They have people coming just about every night of the week - Microsoft employees, youth groups, scouting groups, young single adult wards, etc.
YOU SHOULD CHECK THIS PLACE OUT. I am serious when I say I was amazed at all I learned. I got way more out of it than what I gave back by making kits for needy school children.
For more about Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo, check out tomorrow's post on the community garden, family development, and home buyer and mortgage benefits. (I just couldn't fit all of it into one post!)