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Dranesville Elementary (Herndon) students recognized that a lot of good food was being thrown away after lunch. Teachers Aimee Conrad and Judy Ballenger discussed over the summer how to take good food from the trash cans and give it to families in the area who were hungry. It is estimated that one in four Fairfax County students live in homes where hunger and financial worries are an everyday concern. They needed a food pantry or organization to partner with and found LINK. LINK, an all volunteer Christian organization, provides food to families in Herndon, Sterling, and Ashburn. It turned out to be a perfect fit.
However, there was just one small problem – Fairfax County Public Schools and the Office of Food and Nutrition Services were hesitant to jump on board with the plan. Congressman Frank Wolf helped introduce legislation that explicitly protected schools from liability and encouraged schools to partner with local food pantries to provide food that is unused. Once the school system developed a letter of understanding, the plan moved forward.
The next task was to find a refrigerator that would hold the unused perishable food such as milk, yogurt, and cheese until it could be picked up. Within 6 hours of putting out a plea for a gently-used refrigerator, one was found and delivered by volunteers to the school.
Dranesville Elementary had the full support of Principal Kathy Manoati and worked with its Student Council Association and the fifth and sixth graders to develop a plan of how to rescue the unused food. They researched the hunger in our area, collected and documented unused food, and put together a method of collecting the food. The students learned that over 5,700 pounds of food had gone uneaten in 2011 and decided that it would be the last year to waste that much food.
When students finish their lunch, any unopened and uneaten food items such as milk, yogurt, cheese, fruit, dips, and snack items are “recycled” into labeled bins for LINK. Twice a week, volunteers go to Dranesville Elementary and pick up the food and deliver it to the pantry to be packed into outgoing deliveries to families.
On Monday, March 12th Dranesville Elementary hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to kickoff their Food Rescue program. Fairfax County Public Schools representatives, Office of Food and Nutrition Services representatives, PTA and School representatives and LINK President, Lisa Lombardozzi attended the event, along with the 5th and 6th graders and teachers. A video was shown that highlighted the hunger in our area, along with statistics of the unused food that had been thrown away.
LINK delivers food to families Tuesdays through Saturdays all year long and serves approximately 80 families (400 individuals) a month. Typical deliveries contain primarily non-perishable food items. With the addition of the nutritious food from Dranesville Elementary, LINK will be able enhance its deliveries to families.
On the first day of the program, over 35 milk cartons, 8 juice boxes, 20 containers of yogurt, humus, and cheese, 15 pieces of fruit, and 20 snack items were collected. Approximately one-third of the collection was immediately transferred to outgoing food deliveries to families that day. The remainder will go to families the following day.
Dranesville Elementary did the hard work of getting through the red tape to make the program work and LINK hopes more schools in Fairfax County and Loudoun County will begin programs that benefit the hungry families in our communities.
LINK will also begin working with Herndon Elementary to coordinate a program similar to the one at Dranesville. With the support of schools in our area and the students who attend those schools, we know that we can make a difference in the amount of food thrown away and turn it into a blessing for families who need help.
If you would like to help with the School Food pickup process from Dranesville or Herndon Elementary, contact Lisa Lombardozzi (email@example.com). For more information about LINK, visit our website – www.linkagainsthunger.org.
Office Depot (Sterling) held a ribbon-cutting celebration for the grand opening of its new store in Sterling, Va., on Thursday, March 1, at 3:30 p.m. The store is located at 46301 Potomac Run Plaza.
During this ceremony, the Office Depot Foundation donated new children’s sackpacks with essential school supplies and made charitable contributions to three local non-profit organizations: LINK, Operation Homefront-DC Metro Chapter and The Arc of Loudoun.
The Office Depot Foundation supports a variety of programs that help children succeed in school and in life; enable civil society (non-profit) organizations to become more efficient and effective; help people and businesses prepare for disasters, then recover and rebuild afterwards; strengthen local communities through grants, product donations and volunteerism; and encourage community development through entrepreneurship and economic innovation. For more information, visit www.officedepotfoundation.org.
LINK was established in 1972 as an “all-volunteer” organization. Its member churches and church affiliates, which span a variety of denominations, provide emergency food assistance to families living in Herndon, Sterling and Ashburn. In 2011, more than 13,700 individuals or more than 2,700 families, received enough food for between five to seven days in addition to $69,000 in grocery gift cards and $18,000 in financial assistance. LINK invites individuals, groups, businesses and churches to provide help for their neighbors by volunteering.
Sterling resident Jim Butts wouldn't admit
it, but through 40 years of volunteer work
with the emergency food and aid program
LINK, he has directly and indirectly helped
to provide meals to easily more than 40,000
“Jim has held various positions within LINK, most notably information technology support, website designer, telephone coordinator and furniture delivery coordinator among others,” says Good Shepherd Alliance Chairman Mark underman, who nominated Butts.
“Jim has been tireless in his efforts to keep LINK running smoothly behind the scenes,” he adds. “Through his generosity of time and talents, LINK has grown. LINK is truly fortunate to have a volunteer like Jim Butts who quietly works in a support role to make sure our neighbors in need are served year after year.”
The 72-year-old former telecommunications worker has been involved with the community food donation program from its inception about 45 years ago as an informal organization formed by local churches including his own, Trinity Presbyterian.
“He’s very selfless,” says Rev. Stephen Smith- Cobbs, pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church, where Butts has been a member and elder for decades. “He doesn't like to have a lot of attention drawn to him in terms of a lot of applause or that kind of thing. He's much more understated about that. … it's not about him. It's about getting the work, the outreach, done to help other people.”
Not one to seek the spotlight, Butts says that he has found that “true happiness comes from helping others. I don’t know when the light bulb went off or if I knew that all along, but I really believe, my wife believes and I think now
my daughters believe, that … true happiness, lasting happiness, comes from helping others.
“Throughout life I've been taught that tithing and charity relates to your time, your talent and your treasure. And throughout life, you will have varying amounts of time, or treasure, or talent. It's natural to expect that as you’re young and you have a growing family, you might have a limited amount of money or time to contribute, and you contribute your talents.
And as you grow older and your kids grow older, you’re going to have more money than you have time or talent. Right now I might have more talent available than time or treasure. It’s constantly changing.” Indeed, as he's grown older his volunteer work with LINK has shifted from hauling furniture or boxes of groceries to less physical work such as managing the group's website.
“I would like to say that what makes me who I am today is the fact that I try to learn from my elders and I'm not sure the next generations are learning from … the older generations. And it bothers me a bit but my father-in-law always said, ‘Life is too short for everyone to make every mistake. You have to learn from the mistakes of others.’”