The Anti-Bullying Club (ABC) of Cicero's Columbus East School recently partnered with the Hispanic Outreach program of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS) to conduct a food drive to benefit its local community. More than 2,500 food items were collected and distributed by the fourth, fifth and sixth graders and their families. Columbus East's Cicero District 99 is adjacent to Little Village, so the food drive impacts the community surrounding the school. The student-created Anti-Bullying Club, in its first year at Columbus East, emphasizes education, advocacy and community service. The food drive was one example of how this works.
For two weeks in May, members of the ABC encouraged and motivated their peers to donate non-perishable food items. Food pantry coordinator Christina Quintana visited Columbus East during the monthly parent coffee to help families understand the initiative. The entire school was educated in the issue of food insecurity in Cook County, a county with one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the U.S. Each classroom set individual goals for the amount of food to be collected, tracking their own progress throughout the two weeks. The large majority of classrooms met and exceeded their goals, as there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the project. When all the food had been collected, it filled a small room to overflowing and was organized and packaged by club members under the guidance of Hispanic Outreach staff. On the afternoon of May 15, seven students and their mothers travelled to the Hispanic Outreach site and participated in the distribution of the food items they had collected – more than 260 bags. It was an eye-opening experience for them to see recipients lined up down the block and around the corner.
Every week, the LCFS Little Village food pantry provides nearly 100 households / nearly 275 individuals with healthy, nutritious food. The program places high importance on offering clients an array of food products like fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products which promote improved health and nutrition. Many of the people in the food lines are also in need of other supportive services. So LCFS not only distributes food and clothing, but operates as an informational resource to assist those in need with various services such as citizenship assistance, community referrals, employment assistance, advocacy and counseling.
The Anti-Bullying Club is under the direction of teachers Ms. Colleen Dreyer Diers and Ms. Cynthia Colletta-Schloss; both the principal Ms. Sheila Harris and the vice-principal Mr. Pedro Sanchez have been great supports throughout. Ms. Dreyer Diers shared: "Our children were really excited by the opportunity to do something positive for their community. This is a wonderful example of how empowering young people to give back energizes them and gives them a sense they have value. It was really fun to see their excitement and energy for this project grow as they experienced success. It was also a valuable lesson for them to discover that those in need in our community are really no different from themselves."
Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois is a non-profit social ministry organization annually helping some 40,000 individuals statewide by nurturing and protecting children, empowering families and transforming communities through our programs and services. For more information on LCFS programs and services, visit www.lcfs.org or www.facebook.com/LCFSIL or call 800-363-LCFS.