It’s hard not to feel enthusiastic about Lunch Buddies when speaking to Melanie Faught. The Lunch Buddy program began last fall and has impacted students, teachers, their families and the volunteer Buddies themselves. “There are kids asking for lunch buddies,” Melanie said. “They are excited that someone wants to spend time with them.”
So what is a Lunch Buddy? A Lunch Buddy is the pairing of an Asbell Elementary student with a volunteer. They become buddies. Buddies include volunteer college students, stay-at-home moms, retirees, business people and many others. Members from Central UMC who have stepped up to make a difference in a child’s life by volunteering a lunch break each week to spend with one important person, a student of Asbell Elementary.
Over eighty percent of Asbell’s student population are on free or reduced lunches (according to the 2014 statistic at district.fayar.net). Some of the children have home life challenges, yearning for a little bit more attention. Lunch Buddies are able to provide that attention simply by eating lunch with their student, listening, and building them up with words of encouragement. It’s a “judgment free” zone, as Melanie describes, where the buddy acts not as an authority figure but as a friend. An opportunity where church meets community to create an environment where kids know they matter.
Lunch Buddy Xochitl Baxter shares, “Overall, these kids seem happy with not a care in the world.” Lunch Buddy volunteers are happy to provide that extra attention and support that many children crave.
Lunch Buddy, Crystal Sanders shares, “In my short experience with volunteering at Asbell, I can already see what an impact this has on the children. My lunch buddy has a lot of stress in her home, and I think it really helps that she knows she has someone who will listen and be there for her. “
Lunch Buddies is an important program in more ways than encouragement, too. That’s what is so incredible. Students not only know that they are important, they practice social skills, like learning to look people in the eye and hold conversations.
With Central getting involved other Asbell needs are being met, as well. Working with Asbell’s school counselor and church member, Cameron Magness, needs are discussed and answered. Needs like mattresses for families sleeping on the floor, a shoe fund for children and even a tree being planted in the school yard for future shade. These are just a few of the ways God has used Central members to make a difference.
Some of Central’s members are even taking it beyond lunch time by daring to make an even larger impact by volunteering with the “Girls on the Run” program and dreams of beginning an after school tutoring program. Central’s middle school ministries have provided Birthday baskets of party supplies and cake mix to be distributed to students in need and Central’s Vacation Bible School collected toys and games for indoor and outdoor recesses for students. Each of these programs further benefit the lives of Asbell students.
Our Central Lunch Buddies program is making a difference in our community!
If you are interested in getting involved with Lunch Buddies, please contact Melanie Faught at 200-4829 or call the church office to sign up for the next Lunch Buddies training session on September 19th.
Central Member & Guest Blogger