Welcome to our Changemaker Profiles blog series! Each edition will profile one outstanding social changemaker from the JVA client community. By sharing the stories of some of the incredible people we get to work with every day, each accomplishing extraordinary work in nonprofits, government, social enterprise and elsewhere, we hope we will bring a little light and inspiration to your day!
For this edition, we heard from Jeane Larkins, volunteer coordinator for Food For Thought Denver (FFT), which provides free sacks of food for the weekend to all students at the 26 Denver and Aurora schools it serves. The sacks contain enough food to feed a family of four two meals. FFT is a 100 percent volunteer effort. Each week, more than 100 volunteers help pick up, pack and deliver PowerSacks.
1. Tell us about you and your organization and the social change you are trying to achieve.
“Food For Thought Denver strives to eliminate weekend hunger for children in the Denver area by providing food PowerSacks. Every Friday, volunteers pack and deliver over 4,000 bags of nonperishable food to students in Denver and Aurora. PowerSacks help bridge the hunger gap these students experience between meals they receive at school during the week.
Food For Thought Denver began in 2012 after the founders (who are good friends of mine) realized the extent of the weekend hunger problem in Denver Public Schools. We began by serving 600 students at two schools, and this fall we will serve over 8,000 students at 28 schools!”
2. What keeps you inspired and going when things get tough?
“I am the proud grandmother of seven grandchildren under the age of 9, and most of them have been born during our years of launching Food For Thought. The thought of children in our community going hungry is heartbreaking, tragic and unnecessary.
“I know how my grandkids get when they miss a snack—let alone a meal—and I cannot imagine the sadness a child and/or a mom must feel when a child has to go to bed hungry. Knowing the pain and disadvantage these students must feel and face in school and in their lives is deep motivation to keep Food For Thought going strong.
“I am also highly motivated by our supporters. Anytime I have ever felt discouraged or had the thought that maybe we have taken on too much, a call, a letter, a check or a smiling volunteer face is there to boost our efforts and encourage us to keep going.”
3. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to break new ground in a traditional field?
“Don’t worry about breaking new ground. Keep your focus on the mission of the organization; help everyone to be and feel successful, and the rest will take care of itself.”
4. What book do you recommend to everyone you meet and why? OR What book is on your to-read list and why?
“The book that is currently on the top of my to-read list is ‘The Newcomers’ by Helen Thorpe. It is the story of immigrant children at Denver’s South High School. The book mentions the food pantry that Food For Thought Denver helps run at the school, and I have heard it is a great book.”
5. How have you worked with JVA, and how has that helped your organization?
“My first introduction to JVA was the ‘Write a Grant in a Day’ workshop. It was an excellent workshop and time well spent! It was there that I met Lisa Cirincione, a wonderful and experienced grantwriter.
“Earlier this year, we received a gift from a donor that designated the funds for grantwriting, and we contracted with JVA to do grant research and to help us fine tune a grant template based on the Colorado Common Grant application. We have begun working with Lisa on a couple of large grant opportunities and are very hopeful that we’ll have a great outcome.”
6. What else would you want to share with us that we haven’t asked?
“It is difficult to overstate my profound sense of gratitude for the gift of Food For Thought Denver.
“I am proud to be a part of helping children in our community because I believe they are our future. I have made lifelong friends and laughed and cried alongside those who are on this journey with us.
“I have so much appreciation for the way my own family and friends have rallied behind this cause because they know it is important to me. I am immensely grateful to my husband for supporting my ‘volunteer’ job. I am proud to be a part of a 100 percent volunteer effort that is thinking outside the box and doing things a little differently.”
Keep up with the area’s most inspiring changemakers—read JVA’s Changemakers blog!