When Small Things Are Big Things

Gratitude Day 289

Thurs., June 20, 2019

Ephesians 6:7  – Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,

Mother Teresa said, “The Lord likes small things best, especially those done with love.”

Amen, sister.

In our local community, the school year is over. Nearly ever Friday during the school year, I help coordinate a food program through our local school called, “Blessings in a Backpack.” Each week, about 60 kids in our small, local school district receive a bag of food with two breakfast items, 2 meal items and at least 6 snack items. During the 2018-2019 school year, we were able to provide students with shelf-stable milk every week as one of those snack items.  

The food bags are made available to any student who might be struggling with food insecurity. For some students, this bag of food maybe the only food they receive all weekend. For others, the food bag helps stretch other food resources. Our goal is to provide food for students who might not otherwise have all the food that they need.

This is the third year we have partnered with our local school district to make food bags available for students. Each year, the program has grown more, and we’ve impacted more kids and families. During summer school, we also provide free bag lunches for any student. Between what we provide during the school year and through the summer school program, our little program provided over 3,000 meal bags to students in our local school district.

This is amazing in our little community.

What is even more amazing? The support we’ve received for this program. We have about 30 volunteers who provide time to the program. Most of these volunteers help pack the food bags. We also have volunteers who order and bring the food to our packing site, organize our volunteers, oversee our finances, keep the lines of communication with the school, provide administrative roles, write grants, send thank you’s and a whole host of other roles.

Yet, the program would not be successful without donors. Our Blessings program has received so much support. Local businesses, organizations and individuals provide resources so we can offer great food bags for the kids. Honestly, we’ve done very little promotion because we have received such generous donations.

Why do we do this? Because every kid deserves to have food. Sometimes, people ask why we are providing for a child when their parents are making poor choices. My response? The kids have very little say in how family resources are used. Our goal is to ensure kids have access to food. Period. Nothing else.

This week our volunteers and some donors gathered for an appreciation night. When people heard the number of bags we’ve distributed in our small school district during the last school year and summer, they are flabbergasted.

Sometimes, as volunteers, it’s natural to wonder if your role made a difference. Let’s go back to what Mother Teresa said, “The Lord likes small things done best, especially those done with great love.” It doesn’t matter how big or small a contribution is. When it is done with great love, God smiles. God rejoices. God celebrates that we are willing to help those around us, even in a very small but meaningful way. What we may consider a simple way to serve may make a huge difference in someone else’s life.

I pray that we can remember that serving someone else is serving God. And God loves a faithful servant.

How might you do some small thing today and make a different in someone’s life today? Look for something. Anticipate it. And then, do it.

For opportunities to do small things and make a difference, I am grateful.

Lord God – It is amazing the way you can orchestrate opportunities for people to make a difference in someone else’s life. I pray we accept those opportunities and welcome them in our lives. May we remember that serving is not for our benefit. No, it’s a way to worship You and serve another. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 127 – Blessing Others

Sat., Sept. 29, 2018

Ruth 2:4 – Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem. He said to the harvesters, “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.”

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I love being able to bless other people. It’s one of my favorite things to do. This is one reason why I’ve become involved in a program called Blessings in a Backpack.

This is a program which helps provide weekend food to school students who might not otherwise have enough food. Our local Blessings program works with our local school district to provide this food to students who would be blessed in having this food. In our local program we provide 10 items of food a week: 2 breakfast, 2 meal items and 6 snack items.

It is amazing to watch this program work. The majority of the food is purchased through our local grocery story, who works with our program to provide the food at the most reasonable price possible. Volunteers order the food, pick-up the food, pack the food and deliver the food to the schools. Our volunteer leadership team coordinates the volunteers, finances, connection with the school, administrative roles and marketing promotion.

This past week was National Blessings in a Backpack. Here are the volunteers and owner of the local grocery store who packed the food bags that were delivered to the school on Friday.

Why do I choose to be involved in this program? Because it is providing food to students. I feel making sure every student in our school district has adequate food is my responsibility and my opportunity. Some of you may feel this is not your calling or responsibility. Yet, I feel we all have the opportunity influence kids in our community. This is one way that I choose to be involved. I envision every time a student receives a food bag they feel blessed and cared for.

Maybe being part of a local Blessings program is not feasible for you. I challenge you to become creative and discover a special way that you can support school-aged you in your community:

  • Mentor or tutor student(s) in your local school district.
  • Help cover the cost of lunches for students who many not have funds to do this
  • Provide funds for a student’s lunch break
  • Listen to students read
  • Help a student with homework on a regular basis
  • Volunteer to help with recess
  • Be a volunteer assistance in a classroom or homeroom regularly
  • Ask at your school or library how you could support local kids
  • Pray for the school, administration, students, teachers and all staff.

Whether you have school-aged kids or not, we have unique opportunities to be a part of the kid’s lives within our community. This is how we shared important things from generation to generation.

No matter your age, physical abilities or other commitments, I pray you find a way to support kids within your community.

For the ability to bless school-aged students, I am thankful.

Almighty God – thank you for the opportunities that we come along to bless others. I pray we seize the opportunities to give your love, grace and peace into other’s lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 113 – Milk

Thurs., Sept. 6, 2018

1 John 3:18 – Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it.

A whole bunch of boxes arrived on our porch this week. Later, Hubby Rick asked me “what got dumped on the porch. Did they hit the right house?”

Yes, they hit the right house. And yes, I shared with you a couple days earlier that they would be delivered to our house.

“What is it?”

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Why, it’s milk!

This is the first week of school for our school district. On Friday, we will resume putting together our Blessings food bags for some of the students. These are bags with at least 8 items, most often more, for kids to take home so they have some food for the weekend. Students who might not otherwise have enough food for the weekend.

A typical week food bag has this: 2 breakfast items (think pop tart, oatmeal, small box of cereal or fruit bar); 2 meal items (like easy mac, canned pasta, soup, ramen noodles, tuna and mayo); and at least 4 snack items but often more (examples are filled crackers, granola bar, fruit snacks, can of veggies, pudding, applesauce, Rice Krispy bars, popcorn and my favorite stackable Ritz crackers and individual serving of peanut butter.)

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We know it’s not enough food for the weekend but it’s a start.

Why do we hand out these food bags? Statistics show that students who do not have to worry about food attend school more consistently, do better in class, score higher on standardized testing and have less behavior situations. My thought is: let’s give students what they need to help move them towards achieving their goals!

This will be the third year a group of volunteers in our community have organized the weekend food bags. Time and time again we hear positive comments. Students feel they are “contributing” to their family rather than being a burden; how this IS the food a student has for the weekend; Friday is food bag day! This is exactly why I am involved in our Blessings program.

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The last few months, Wisconsin dairy farmers and their families are in a position that most of them need weekend food bags. Not just for their kids but for the entire family. Farm gate prices the dairy producers have been receiving has been terribly low. Dairy farmers are leaving by droves and there isn’t an end in sight.

This issue is dear to my heart. I grew up on a dairy farm and my family lived through the 1980’s downturn in the dairy industry. My part-time marketing job is directly related to the dairy industry. Nearly weekly, we become aware of a previous customer who is no longer milking cows.

I’ve tried to come up with some small, easy ways local people can assist dairy farmers. Donate cheese to the food pantry. Share how people are donating milk to the food pantry. Encourage cow milk consumption versus alternative options. (Honestly, an honest comparison of the nutritional facts might surprise you.)

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When our small group of Blessings leadership team met, I suggested including milk in our weekly distribution. With no refrigeration available, I know the milk needed to be a product that does not require refrigeration.

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There is such a product available. It’s called UHT milk: ultra-high temperature milk. This milk goes through a special process so milk can set upon a shelf for a few months without refrigeration. I had purchased samples for the ladies to taste. Quickly, it was decided to include milk every week. We would keep our weekly average packing cost to about $2.63/bay/week. The milk would be above and beyond this and would not affect the number of products receive. The milk would be a weekly add-on.

The favorite sample happened to be a chocolate milk variety. And it was good!

I had purchased a few samples. Obtaining a large quantity was another question. After some digging, the best option was to order it online. As much as I prefer to purchase locally, this time, going online became the best option.

Hence, all the milk on our front porch. On Friday, every student will receive one of these 8-oz cartons of chocolate milk that does not have to be refrigerated. We pray the kids are as excited about receiving the milk as the volunteer leaders are about donating it.

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UHT milk has not become as popular in the US as it is in other parts of the world. With UHT milk, you can take milk to a weekend sporting event and not worry about refrigeration. Milk can be use camping, on vacation or when traveling. Think about the additional ways you could use milk this week if it did not have to be refrigerated!

I’m anxious to receive feedback from the Blessings kids about receiving milk. It’s a great way to offer nutritionally sound items in our weekend food bags.

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For different products which allow creative milk consumption, I am grateful.

When students need help, Lord God, I pray that we respond.  Thank you for providing the recourses needed to offer our Blessings weekend food program. I pray students will encourage through these food bags this week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 13 – Food

Blessings bags

Sat., Apr. 14, 2018

Matthew 5:35-36 – (Jesus said), “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’

Friday mornings are Blessings mornings. This is the day a group of volunteers’ pack weekend food bags for students in our local school district. Each Friday, we provide food for students who might not otherwise have enough food for the weekend. Weekly, students receive 8-10 items: 2 breakfast items, 2 meals and at least four snacks. These items will not cover all their weekend food needs. Our goal is to ensure students have something to eat.

Are there hungry students even in our little Poynette School District? What I do know is there were 56 students this Friday morning that may not have enough food. I am grateful we can provide some food for the weekend.

I became involved in the Blessings in a Backpack Program over 18 months ago. After the local school board confirmed support of our local Blessings program, we organized a great group of volunteers to carry out the program’s mission. There are six core volunteers who oversee an area of the program: shopping and packing, volunteer coordinator, community coordination, fundraising, financial and overall coordination. Another 25 volunteers help pack and distribute weekly food bags.

Do the weekend food bags make a difference? The stories say so. One little boy was sick on a Friday morning. When the school nurse wanted to call a parent to pick him up, he said he wouldn’t leave until he had his food bag. After winter break, two girls showed up in the school office on Friday morning. The volunteer drop-off person was also in the office. The girls asked her if she is “the food lady” because they wanted to make sure they would be getting food bags.

The Blessings program is so well supported in our community it basically runs itself. Volunteers just do their jobs. The financial support has been not been short of amazing. I was reminded of this again this week, when several substantial unsolicited donations showed up out of the blue. Every gift, whether large or small, indicates support of feeding hungry kids. And for this, I am grateful.

I have been involved in many, many different volunteer groups in my life. All with good missions. All with great volunteers. All with great purposes. The group I am the most humbled by is our little Blessings in a Backpack Program. Why? Because everyone wants to help feed hungry kids. Period. There are no other motivations. Everyone has the same goal.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – when Jesus said to “feed the hungry,” he was serious. We lift up the students and families who are a part of any Blessings in a Backpack program. We also pray for anyone, anywhere how has a food need. May we be your hands and feet in our local communities and take seriously Christ’s call to feed the hungry. Thank you for the many, many people who help feed the hungry every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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What Can You Do with $2.63?

Tues., Dec. 12, 2017

Psalm 138:2– I face your Temple as I worship, giving thanks to you for all your loving-kindness and your faithfulness, for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.

The elementary-school-aged boy proudly dropped some money into the bucket. He looked up and said, “The $10, that’s from my Mom. I’m putting in $2.63!”

$2.63. Right down to the penny.

I am part of a program called Blessings in a Backpack. Each week, our volunteer group puts together bags of food for kids within the school district who might not have enough food to eat over the weekend. Each week, our group packs 52-54 bags of food and takes them to the school. School staff discreetly put the food bags into kid’s backpacks and/or lockers. Parents have granted permission for their child to receive the food bags. It is our hope these little bags of food provide security and confidence the recipients will have some food to eat over the weekend.

The average cost of a food bag per student each week: $2.63.

The program is sustained by donations, grants and generous people. Our Blessings group is a non-profit organization that appreciates every penny we receive; including the $2.63 this boy dropped into the money bucket one night.

The school parent organization had organized a student craft night. Students could sell crafts or baked goods they made. Our Blessings program was invited to participate. Would I be willing to share with the students and parents about the program? Could I encourage the kids to give back some of the money they earned from their sales to the Blessings program? Why, of course, I would.

Before the shopping began, I asked the students what they could buy with $2.63. After a few answers, I showed a typical food bag that students receive, pulling out two breakfasts, two meals and four snacks. If they wanted to help fellow students, maybe they could donate to the Blessings program from the proceeds of their sales.

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I was so impressed with the unique ideas the students had. A cupcake decorating station. Lots of candy, cookies and baked items, including gluten-free options! Bookmarks, crafts made from Mason jars and burlap bags: it was all there. The price lists and business cards brought smiles to shoppers faces.

It was a super-fun night. I enjoyed a little shopping myself and seeing the creative options. As people were packing up left-over items, most of the kids stopped by the Blessings table and dropped some money into our bucket. One mom shared that her daughter donated 50% of her profits, a pre-arranged requirement. And there was the boy who donated exactly enough money for one Blessings bag that would be packed the following morning for one of his fellow schoolmates. Right down to the penny.

Once home, I counted the money. Total donations from the craft night: $254.83. It costs about $100/child for a school year. Blessings received donations to pay for 2.5 school kids for the current school year.

So many lessons abounded in this single event. Kids discovered how to make something. They were given the opportunity to sell their product and maybe even learned a lesson or two about marketing. They learned about stewardship: the value of giving back and paying their proceeds forward.

I give thanks for every student who dropped any amount into the Blessings bucket that night, as well as their parents and grandparents. I give thanks for their loving-kindness and their faithfulness. I give thanks for the $2.63 that will provide a student with a bag of food this weekend.

What can you do with $2.63 today?

Lord God – Thank you for helping us see that giving comes in all shapes and sizes. May we be reminded that the size of the gift is not nearly as important as the giving heart behind the gift. We thank you for your never-failing loving-kindness and faithfulness to us. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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