For some, Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day is just another day off to sleep in or do something fun with friends. But for us here at Northern Illinois Food Bank, and for many of our supporters and volunteers, it isn’t a day off at all because hunger never takes a break. This is especially true for our VolunTeens, a group of high school students who selflessly give back to the community by volunteering their time each week as part of our three-month youth leadership program.
Designed to provide students with real-world leadership and project management skills, The VolunTeen Program allows high schoolers to become an important part of the Food Bank’s volunteer team. VolunTeens not only greet volunteers as they come into the Food Bank, but also they assist with registration, lead an orientation session, and act as support staff for the warehouse team and for volunteer groups on the warehouse floor throughout each volunteer shift they lead.
Over the course of the program, VolunTeens develop a greater understanding about the realities of hunger and poverty in our community and become advocates for the 600,000 hungry neighbors across our 13-county service area who are facing tough choices and hunger every day.
Eli Brottman, a student from St. Charles East High School who got involved in the Food Bank’s VolunTeen program last summer, says the program has been an invaluable experience:
“In addition to learning about the Food Bank, I’ve learned about the people it serves,” Eli reflected. “I never realized that the majority of people who rely on the Food Bank have a source of income but have to choose between paying for food and paying their bills. I see how important food is to them.”
To further foster the leadership skills of our VolunTeens, workshops are offered throughout the program and cover topics such as public speaking, leadership, personality assessments, resume building, interviewing, team building, and more.
The program is offered at all three of the Food Bank’s centers, in Geneva, Rockford and Park City. For more details about the requirements and time commitment of the program, check out our program flyer here.
Applications are now being accepted for the Spring VolunTeen program, which kicks off January 25 and runs through April 18. The last day to apply for this session is next Wednesday, January 18! Additional sessions will be offered in the summer and fall (totaling three sessions per calendar year).
Also new this year, we’re excited to announce that two VolunTeens participating in the spring session will receive a $1,000 scholarship award from our partners at H.B. Fuller!
For questions or further information about Northern Illinois Food Bank’s VolunTeens program, email Amanda Franze or call (630) 443-6910, ext. 173.
It’s clear that MLK Day can be so much more than just a day off—it’s a chance to answer life’s most urgent question: what are YOU doing for others? Or perhaps the real question is, how will you answer the call?