Over the last eight months, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of The Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy. This program focuses on educating members about their community, leadership skills, and how to work with a wide variety of personality types. This program also focuses on giving back to the community in any way we can. I had been assigned to a group with 4 other academy members and we were tasked with raising funds for Church Community Services so that they could replace their roof. We had an 80’s themed event planned for this coming Friday with trivia and music and all kinds of fun, however, Covid-19 put a stop to our plans.

While it would have been easy to feel discouraged, the Leadership Academy has taught us all to work with what we have instead of what we want. So this past Friday my team partnered with a team supporting Feed The Children, another nonprofit in the community. Together we planned a food drop at Church Community Services where we would pass out 400 boxes of food and hygiene products.  While this wasn’t our initial plan, this was exactly what the community needed right now.

Our food drop was scheduled to start at 4:00 pm and there were families lined up waiting at 11:00 am in hopes of being one of the 400 families that would receive the twenty-seven pounds of food and 17 pounds of hygiene products. By the time we started handing out boxes the line of cars stretched so far that we were unable to even see the end. The individuals and families that came through were so appreciative of what they were receiving.

The heartbreaking part though was having to tell the hundreds of others who had lined up hoping for food that we had no more to give that day. Many of these people had waited for hours. Some had walked or biked down. Some brought their children with them. We knew we didn’t have enough for everyone and having to tell people that they weren’t going to get food that day was truly gut-wrenching. However, thinking about the smiles and thanks that I received from the families who we did serve lifted me up and reminded me that we can only do the best we can with what we have been given, which is another concept that I have learned both from the Leadership Academy and through my time at Ryan’s Place.

What I realized after we were done and I was driving home is that I am incredibly fortunate to have food in my pantry and I know where my next meal is coming from. My children will not have to miss a meal due to a lack of food. I was able to step back and truly appreciate what I have and what I often take for granted. As we continue to be quarantined, if you can, take a step back and look around, and take a breath and maybe find a way that you too can help your community.

Author – Laurenne Hamlin, Program Director