For Eli Brottman, helping hungry neighbors proved to be the perfect way to spend the summer between his sophomore and junior year at St. Charles East High School.
Along with eight other teenagers who took part in Northern Illinois Food Bank’s VolunTeen Youth Leadership Program last summer, Eli found himself immersed in day-to-day volunteer operations at the Food Bank’s West Suburban Center in Geneva. From helping in the warehouse to managing volunteer projects to eventually leading a volunteer orientation, the experience offered an up-close look at how the Food Bank provides food for 71,000 hungry neighbors each week.
“In addition to learning about the Food Bank, I’ve learned about the people it serves,” Eli said. “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 this food is to them.”
The VolunTeen Program is open to high school students ages 16-18. During the nine-week program, VolunTeens develop a wide range of skills, including customer service, leadership, public speaking, relationship building and problem solving.
“Eli was excited to come to the Food Bank each day, and he not only wanted to be there on time, but he was pushing to get out of the house 20 minutes early,” said Francine Brottman, Eli’s mom. “It was a great growth experience. Eli learned a lot and he enjoyed it.”
The Food Bank launched its VolunTeen Program last summer and continued it throughout the school year with sessions in the fall and spring semesters. In total, more than 30 students have taken part.
The Food Bank is seeking participants in the VolunTeen Program for the upcoming summer session and 2016-17 school year. The program is available at each of the Food Bank’s centers in Geneva, Park City and Rockford.
“We see our VolunTeens as future leaders here at the Food Bank and beyond,” said Shannon Thompson, manager of volunteer programs at Northern Illinois Food Bank. “Their energy and eagerness to help are much appreciated, and we look forward to working with more dedicated teenagers as the program grows.”