A letter from a child that receives assistance from TWIGS in Granite City, Il / Photo by Kate Hartman
Every week day of summer break from school, volunteers from TWIGS head to their designated distribution site — a city lot, a park, a fire department or a YMCA — to serve food from iced coolers.
On any given day, they will serve anywhere from 20 to 50 plus kids per site.
Is this a fundraiser for a local school? Nope.
The lunches given out by TWIGS go to children who may otherwise go without food during the summer months.
TWIGS is not your typical children’s feeding program.
In cooperation with Gloria Harrison, the food service director for Granite City School District #9, the Granite City mayor, and the local police department, TWIGS Founder Lisa Guilliams was able to narrow down neighborhoods that would be most accessible for the children of the Granite City, Il community. With as many as 15 carefully pinpointed sites, TWIGS provides a free summer lunch to any child that comes to one of its booths.
“We don’t want your name, we don’t want your address, we don’t want your phone number,” says Guilliams. “All we want to do is give your kids a lunch.”
While there was initial uncertainty from some families within the communities last year, this year Guilliam says, “For us, it’s word of mouth; other people in the community talking about the program and building a relationship. Because they’ve heard of us, they’re not as hesitant.”
Guilliams was able to take a few moments and do a quick Q and A with the Foodbank regarding her time volunteering with TWIGS.
1. Please give me your name and the name of the agency where you volunteer.
Lisa Guilliams. TWIGS, A Family TreeHouse Outreach.
2. When did you first become involved with TWIGS?
Officially, last May 2011.
3. What prompted you to begin working or volunteering with TWIGS?
The realization of how high free and reduced lunches are in this community. People right around our community have no food in their houses. What happens to kids when school lets out?
4. How many children does TWIGS serve on an average month?
Last year we did 2,500 the whole summer. This year we’re averaging 4,000 a month.
5. How do you feel the St. Louis Area Foodbank affects the services you are able to provide the children of TWIGS?
More variety, much better price; allows us to service a lot more kids and add more nutrition, and a lot more variety.
6. What does a typical TWIGS lunch consist of?
A lunchable, drink, yogurt or applesauce, and cookies.
7. Do you feel the work you do is really making a difference in the lives of the people you serve? Can you tell me about an experience that made you feel you were making an impact?
Absolutely; we know that because of the moms, grandmas, dads, uncles, neighbors, whoever it is that are bringing the kids. Last year at the end of the summer, parents were in tears. We even have some thank you notes that we got. They come and they talk about it and we’ve even had a few of the people in the community that bring their kids want to come and volunteer. It’s truly about engaging everyone in the community.
8. In your time as a volunteer/staff member, what are the most significant changes you have seen?
Number of kids would be the first thing; huge increase in the number of children; also, a change in the attitude and hearts of the people that are volunteering. We’re helping the kids, but what they’re getting back from the kids is amazing; they come back with the cutest stories. Two little girls came dressed up in their best little white dresses because they were going out for lunch. Some color pictures, or try to write thank you and they’re barely printing.
There’s been a change, and that begins to move as we bring in more and more volunteers—it begins to affect the community too. We’re helping the kids, but they’re changing hearts too and they don’t even know they’re doing it.
9. From your vantage point, what one thing would you like to see happen to improve the economic situation in America?
There’s got to be a way in the United States that people can get food. It’s a crying shame that there are so many out there—young, old—that they’re hungry.
Kate Hartman is an agency relations coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank