Changing the world, one sandwich at a time
By Todd Moen, Editor
If you take 150 loaves of bread and combine them with 75 packages of lunchmeat, 20 large blocks of sliced cheese, and the willing hands of a small army of seventh grade students at Clearwater Middle School in Waconia, what do you get?How about 1,900 sandwiches destined for the homeless in the Twin Cities? An effort that accomplished all of that occurred at Clearwater on Friday, April 20.
The service project was organized and run by seventh graders Megan Girard, Sydney Valenta, Ian Albers, Daniella Loper and Kirk Palsma. The students enlisted the help of about 100 of their fellow seventh graders in making the sandwiches, which were sent to Project 363, a non-profit that feeds about 4,500 people per week.
The effort was made possible through a grant that the students received through Youth Service America and the Sodexo Foundation. The five students each wrote part of the grant and submitted it last January. The grant was approved in March and gave the students $500 for their project. The students also collected about $250 for the effort, an amount that was matched by Freshwater Church in St. Bonifacius.
Thanks to a discount by Mackenthun's Fine Foods, which is where the students purchased the ingredients for the sandwiches, there was enough money left over to send along an extra monetary donation with the sandwiches to Project 363.
The students were excited about how the project turned out, noting a similar but smaller effort to benefit Project 363 was held at Clearwater in January.
"We thought this was a good opportunity for us to lead the entire class in something," explained Girard, who added that the goal of the day was to make a large impact on the community and "to show kids how important it is to give back."
"I thought it went really well," Loper said. "It was a really big undertaking for the allocated time we had but it was really important to do this to help people and make a difference in the community."
Palsma said he was proud that he and the other students decided to take the time to complete the grant, an opportunity presented to them by their teacher, Jane Klembarsky. Valenta added that the grant process proved to be somewhat challenging.
"The grant writing was a little stressful," she admitted, noting that they had about a week and a half or so to write the grant request. "But we got it done, working together. The coolest thing was that we submitted it on our own and still got it."
"It was really amazing how the grant all came together," Girard added.
Klembarsky noted that the students did a great job taking ownership of the project and expressed her appreciation to Mackenthun's for "going above and beyond" by being supportive, patient and kind with the students regarding the purchases, etc.
Jim Nash, the mayor of Waconia, stopped by Clearwater and helped make sandwiches during the effort. Nash said he was impressed by the students' initiative.
"It's impressive to see kids taking time out of their day to make sandwiches for the hungry," he said. "It shows Waconia has a great group of kids who are willing to undertake this mission. It's fantastic."
All five of the students who led the effort are thinking about other ways they can help the community in the future.
"It was a rewarding experience," Albers said. "It was one of the best experiences one could have in their lifetime ... helping out their community in the way like we did."