Fulfilling a basic need in Lakeville
LSHS students come together to feed starving kids
There is an old adage that goes something like this: “I’ve always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that, then I realized I am somebody.”
When it came to feeding hungry children on a large scale, students at Lakeville South High School have acted out that saying in full force.
Juniors Brittany Ebeling, Tijen Petersen and Jacqui Geerdes, in conjunction with the school’s National Honor Society, sought a partnership with Feed My Starving Children to bring together the community to raise money and package 100,000 meals to send to impoverished regions.
“It’s been a series of small miracles,” Ebeling said. “There has been such an outpouring of support.”
On Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12, almost 500 volunteers will gather at LSHS to package those meals, a triumphant end to months of preparation and the tackling of daunting challenges.
In fall 2011, Ebeling was thinking a lot about a way to help those in need. She considered her experience with the non-profit FMSC at her church, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville.
FMSC is an organization that left its mark in the most basic way: nourishment.
Ebeling was driving home one day with Petersen and said, “Why don’t we do this at our school? We’d be helping people throughout the world.”
The will to kick off the mission was the easy part.
“Everyone was on board and said it sounded like a great idea,” Ebeling said. “But then we found out it would cost $24,000 (to make 100,000 meals).”
Lakeville South Activities Director Neil Strader said when the girls first approached him, he balked at the idea. The Lakeville school district has faced millions of dollars in budget adjustments in the past several years, so money is often a concern.
“I told these girls ‘no’ two or three times,” Strader said, “but they kept coming back.”
In the meantime, the teen trio was busy arranging a series of fundraisers, marketing efforts and community engagement activities to reach that $24,000 goal.
“As far as getting it off the ground,” Ebeling said, “that number was daunting. People look at it and think it’s not appealing.”
But two events came together to serve as catalysts for the mission to proceed.
Strader and his wife were volunteering with FMSC on their own, when they were talking about the girls’ proposal with a couple at the volunteer site.
“They said that if money is the only reason for saying ‘no,’ then that was not a good enough reason,” he said.
The couple made some calls, which led to the other turning point.
An anonymous foundation donated $10,000 to help get things started. The couple themselves donated $1,000 out of their own pockets.
Not only did it put them nearly halfway there, it also bolstered the girls’ resolve.
“At that point, we thought maybe we should not let it fail,” Ebeling said.
She spoke at churches throughout the area, illustrating the girls’ intention to purchase materials to package 100,000 meals at 24 cents apiece.
Groups from all over came to their aid.
The Lakeville Rotary and the Lakeville Community Education department donated money to the cause.
Hosanna! Church in Lakeville kicked in $3,000. St. John’s Church, also in Lakeville, contributed $1,000.
The senior class of LSHS donated $1,000 from its fund as well.
Individuals started giving money, too.
“Kids were finding creative ways to pitch in,” Geerdes said. “People would save their tips from work.”
Geerdes organized a fashion show at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club in April that pulled in $3,000 toward the effort.
The changing market for food materials helped, too. The cost per meal dropped to 22 cents, chopping $2,000 off the total the girls would need.
Ebeling also harnessed the power of social media, recognizing the marketing potential of Facebook – especially among her peers.
She would post frequently, she said, writing “I donated this much money this week,” for example. Presumably, others would make similar posts.
“My part of this whole project was raising awareness within kids and getting them to personally donate money,” Ebeling said.
A number of student groups latched on to the project, including the gymnastics team, boys’ hockey, the French Club and others.
But getting the money was only part of the challenge: The girls needed 500 volunteers, a ratio required by FMSC. So they tapped into their marketing and organizational talents to get people on board.
Students at Kenwood Trail Middle School also got involved. They raised about $300, in addition to gathering some volunteers to pack the meals.
The girls are still looking for volunteers, though.
To register for this FMSC MobilePack event go to http://www.fundraising.fmsc.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1008813.
FMSC’s MobilePack program allows organizations to package meals off-site, in this case at the high school.
This type of large-scale effort does not just have a positive impact on the hungry children. Strader said these girls are learning valuable lessons.
“They laughed in the face of challenges and said they were going to get it done,” he said. “These are real-life skills exemplified here that will carry on for a long time.”