Students at a Utah County virtual charter school are making the holiday season a little more filling for students in Tooele.
Even though they don’t know them, and will probably never meet them, high school students at Lumen Scholar Institute in Orem spent the last few weeks gathering food items to help homeless students in the Tooele County School District. They sorted and stuffed these food kits Friday night.
According to Christy Johnson, homeless liaison for the Tooele school district, about 700 children are classified as homeless in her district. These students are either living with family in shelters, motels, in camping trailers with no hook-ups or in shared homes, or are unaccompanied minors with no guardian who are “couch-surfing” at friends’ homes.
About 200 of that number rely on the school district to provide them with basic food needs. Johnson explained that these students get their weekday meals through the school’s breakfast and lunch meals and are sent home each weekend with food kits containing packaged food to get them through to the next Monday.
“These students are in critical need. These kids don’t have access to food over the weekend,” Johnson said Friday night as the Lumen students sorted kits.
As Johnson looked at the towers of Pop-Tarts, juice cups, granola bars and more, she was amazed at how much food and donations the Lumen students gathered in such a short time.
“I’m overwhelmed at your kindness and compassion for people you will never know. You really don’t know how happy this makes these kids,” she said.
The Lumen students — only about 100 strong — made the goal to gather enough food for 1,000 kits. They were so successful in their efforts that Johnson took bins of food kits back to Tooele Friday night, and then had to return Saturday with a small rented trailer to cart the rest home. In all, they’d packed 1,159 food kits.
“One of the Tooele students told Christy that he didn’t know what to do because of the long break for Thanksgiving. He wasn’t sure he was going to have food,” said Allison Richardson, Lumen concurrent enrollment director and staff advisor on the service project.
But with more than 1,000 kits, Johnson said these would last the Tooele district through Thanksgiving, December and into January. Up until Friday, she’d never seen a donation of more than 100 kits at a time.
“This is amazing,” she said.
Just two weeks ago, though, the students were worried they wouldn’t reach their goal. Richardson said it looked like the students would only get about two-thirds of the kits completed. But Joseph Hofheins, a Lumen senior, stepped in and made gathering the rest of the kits his Boy Scout Eagle Project. Through his efforts, combined with other standout students, they surpassed their goal.
Lorin Larsen, a junior at Lumen, made a grid spreadsheet to track how much of each food item they already had, and what was still needed. Andrew Parker, also a junior, created flyers for fellow students and hit his neighborhood streets asking for donations. One group of students, using donated money, completely filled one of their cars to the roof with Nissin Cup Noodles boxes.
“This project, this effort — most of it came from the students bringing stuff in,” Richardson said Friday, as she counted kits.