"What do you get when you cross a drumstick with a centipede? Chicken legs for everyone!"
This is just one of many jokes Jesse brings when he and his classmates volunteer at the Food Bank. Since 2015, students from Valley View's Special Education Department (also called the Blazer SPARKS) have volunteered regularly at the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas amassing more than 300 volunteer hours over five years.
It all started in August 2015. Kelly Greene and Tina Golden were brainstorming how they could help their students develop life skills and transition from school life to adult life.
"We thought volunteering would be the best way that we could do that," said Kelly Greene, Self-Contained Special Education Teacher at Valley View High School. "The community is always there to help us and so giving back to the community is the best thing we can teach our students to do."
Since August 2019, the students have packed 29,465 meals -- enough food to feed 1,403 people three meals a day for an entire week. Because of the impact made by the Blazer SPARKS in the fight against hunger, the Food Bank chose to nominate the group for an Acting Out Against Hunger Award. Each year during Hunger Action Month, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance recognizes those who "have gone above and beyond the call to feed the hungry in Arkansas."
In addition to packing boxes at the Food Bank, the Blazer SPARKS have also helped at our annual Fill the Food Bank event; volunteered at our partner agency, Helping Neighbors Food Pantry; and provided food to help fill one of the blessing boxes in Jonesboro.
"The reason I think it is important to volunteer at the Food Bank is so people will have the food they need. I like to help people," said Paige, a student in the Blazer SPARKS group.
"The are truly an incredible group of kids," said Jennifer Hannah, Outreach Coordinator for the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas. "We look forward to the day they volunteer every month because they not only help us with projects, but they do it with the most beautiful smiles. Spending five minutes with them will brighten your entire week."