Tradition of Volunteering at McKenny

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Tradition of Volunteering at McKenny
Students working in the food bank

The food bank volunteer program has been a part of McKenny Elementary School for five years now. During that time the program has been responsible for packing tens of thousands of weekend food bags and contributing thousands of cumulative hours of service to the Thurston County Food Bank.


“I love this project because it gives our students a safe outlet to serve with their families,” said organizer Mindy Swedberg, a physical education specialist at McKenny. “Our kids get to see firsthand that service is fun, requires teamwork, and also takes a lot of hard work.”


“As students get older they begin to see how their work helps and provides for kids in their immediate community, and how our school community plays a big part in meeting the needs of kids across the country every month,” Swedberg added. “We place emphasis as a school on showing kindness and compassion through our direct work with the Food Bank each month.”


This year, McKenny students and their families have the opportunity to sign up for volunteer time at the food bank during the last Thursday of every month. Each grade level gets at least one opportunity to sign up. This is strictly a volunteer program, not a requirement, students and families elect to volunteer on their own time.


“It’s great to get the kids involved and get that experience with helping the community,” said Elisa Del Giudice, who volunteered with her 3rd grade son yesterday. “It’s kind of nice to have him experience something on the peer level where he’s helping kids his own age with the food backpacks for kids.”


“Volunteering at the food bank allows students to learn firsthand that service can be fun and that they can have a big impact, even as kids,” said McKenny Principal Michael Havens. “The program also teaches the value of accomplishing big tasks through teamwork and allows families a safe place to serve together. Many students have grown to love the food bank project and developed an enjoyment for service projects,” Havens said.


Morgan Lord, the weekend meal bag coordinator for the Thurston County Foodbank, said that McKenny has been one of the strongest groups of volunteers over time. “Even through the pandemic last year, McKenny put together groups to come in every week. We lost a lot of volunteers that couldn’t come in that year and McKenny was able to rally families to come in weekly.”


The food bank project began in the fall of 2017, the brainchild of Swedberg, who was a school parent at the time. As a school staff member now, she continues to lead the program. School leaders say they intend to continue the program each year and hope to see it grow.


“I am incredibly proud of our school - especially during COVID,” Swedberg said. “We helped sustain the FORKids program at the Food Bank during a time when our community needed it most. We had groups going in several times a month to meet the volunteer needs required to get food out to our community. Families and staff in our school stepped up in big ways to help get a very necessary job done.


“It makes me teary thinking of how many of our families set aside time, and continue to set aside time, to meet the needs of others. It is love in action.”