When the Sandwich Lunch Brigade at Concord Academy program launched last December, it was simply about getting lunches in the hands of kids who were otherwise going without.
Thanks to volunteers packing the food, it quickly turned into so much more this school year.
“I had this idea that since we were making the lunch for the kids, I asked Kathy if we could add little note cards in – so the clients also then about once a month they spend different times making these positive notecards,” said Amy Dubey, owner at Therapy Solutions and Monarch Workforce.
Monarch Workforce is a vocational rehabilitation program that partners with community organizations for employment opportunities. Northmen Dens is among those partners, with Monarch clients packing lunches each week for the Sandwich Brigade program.
Renee, a client at Monarch and one of the sandwich makers, said she loves making the sandwiches and organizing the lunches because she’s “kind of an OCD lady,” but it’s those positivity notes that she’s really passionate about.
“I really enjoy making the little notecards for the kids,” she said. “I love it so much, I bought 2 packages of 300 index cards, cut them in half and I’m decorating them at home.”
Renee said she focuses on short notes, using many Dr. Seuss quotes of simple phrases like “be brave today,” or “embrace the challenges coming your way.”
“It’s very creative … the quotes are not mine personally, but being able to write them down and express them – it’s just very artistic,” she said. “I just really hope that all of the kids enjoy everything we’re doing.”
Enjoy them, they are! Joelle Drader, school counselor at Concord Academy, said the program has been really helpful to provide a healthy, balanced lunch – but the notes have been an extra, well-loved perk.
“What touched our hearts the most was the special notes with stickers that were put in every lunch,” she said. “It was such a personal touch that made you know the lunch was prepared with love and care. This unique collaboration between these organizations was amazing!”
The school does not have a kitchen or lunch room; many students qualify for free/reduced lunch, which is unavailable. Parkside Deli and Northmen Dens partnered to change that. A sample menu includes: Turkey, Turkey & Cheese, or Cheese; bag of chopped fresh carrots, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, broccoli tidbits; apple sauce or mandarin oranges cup; bag of chips; water; and a homemade cookie.
Parkside Deli provides the food at cost to Northmen Den Youth Services. The ingredients chosen are the exact same used within the deli’s menu – because, as owner Sarah McDonnell explained – the kids deserve the same quality.
“To know that we’re helping to get food to kids that need it, and I am happy that it is more of a wholesome meal,” she said. Before the program launched, many kids who qualified for free/reduced lunch would eat just a bag of chips or even go without food. During the school year, Northmen Dens picks up food every wednesday to drop at Monarch Workforce, so they can get to work.
Sarah said she enjoys being involved with kids and giving back to the community, and the partnership with such a wonderful charity who helps kids dealing with hunger was a natural fit.
“They provide so many services to students in need,” Sarah said, of Northmen Dens. “It’s not just a food based program; they are offering mentorship and guidance along with having a food pantry.”
Amy of Monarch echoed the feel-good sentiment of making a difference.