By: Rikki Luebke
As an AmeriCorps member with Montana No Kid Hungry, I am responsible for increasing access to Summer Food Service Programs in my community. These programs provide meals for kids and teens during the summer months, which is important because many families struggle to provide food when their children aren’t receiving school meals. After meeting with the Summer Food Service Program sponsor in Libby, I decided to set up activity programming. I determined that adding activities between meal times would be the best way to increase participation. The activities would have to be led completely by volunteers. The first word that came to mind when thinking about organizing activities and volunteers for the summer: overwhelming. I felt like I was in over my head trying to attempt this project.
As overwhelmed as I was, I began this huge task by breaking it down. I started with the connections I had already made in the community. First, I went to the library to see if the librarian could provide any activities during the summer. She eagerly agreed to come once a week to lead a storytime followed by crafts and science experiments. She also agreed to be a part of the kick-off event that I was planning and to help advertise the program. Then, I went to my church choir. I explained the program and how they could get involved. Many were enthusiastic to volunteer for at least a day, others were willing to volunteer on a regular basis, and some even suggested other people and groups for me to reach out to. After these initial successes, I was ready to reach out to a larger, slightly less familiar group. I arranged to make an announcement at the church I attend. Although I was slightly anxious to ask for help from such a large group of strangers, I took the risk and put myself out there. Several people approached me to sign up and even more contacted me at a later date because of the announcement I had printed in the bulletin. I was beyond grateful for all of the people stepping up to make my goal a reality! As more people signed up, I gained more confidence, which made it easier to reach out to other groups. I presented at a Rotary meeting and met with the Kiwanis Club. I called other churches in town to recruit volunteers as well. Although all of these meetings and phone calls did not lead to volunteers, most of them provided useful connections for me. While meeting with the Kiwanis Club, I learned of the Libby Youth Center as well as how the Libby Chamber of Commerce could promote the program. The Libby Youth Center proved to be a very beneficial connection to make as it will potentially be a meal site this summer, currently pending approval.
As summer approaches, I will be contacting all of the volunteers I have recruited to start setting dates and activities as well going over expectations. I will also continue trying to recruit more volunteers. I am amazed at the response of the community and so grateful to be living and serving in a place where so many people are willing to help to make something happen. I am so excited to see how everything comes together this summer!