Chandler Service Club feeds needy, mentors women SanTan Sun News

Chandler Service Club feeds needy, mentors women

December 8th, 2017 | by SanTan Sun News
Chandler Service Club feeds needy, mentors women
Community
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By COLLEEN SPARKS, Staff

A warehouse on an otherwise quiet school district campus came to life as volunteers packed boxes with pasta, fruit, granola and other foods in a flurry of activity on a recent morning.

Several of the volunteers were members of the Chandler Service Club, a nonprofit organization that works with partners Arizona Brainfood, the Chandler Compadres and Bashas’ Grocery stores to feed over 600 children every week.

The Chandler club’s Weekenders Program fills boxes every Friday with nutritious food for students in 25 Chandler Unified School District schools. The food and drinks will help nourish students that would otherwise not get enough to eat over the weekend.

The Weekenders Program is just one of the activities the all-women Chandler Service Club does to help feed, clothe, educate and mentor the community’s families and children in need.

“We really started in 1933,” said Claudia Wollschlager, club public relations chairwoman. “They started feeding kids in the Great Depression and they’ve carried it through today.”

Usually about 15 Chandler Service Club members come to the Weekenders Program every week and some bring their family members and friends. Roughly 60 volunteers, including the Chandler Service Club members, typically come to help pack the food Thursday mornings.

The Chandler Compadres is a sister organization that also gets food donations that go directly to the program to feed kids in the schools. Bashas’ gives bags and the vouchers for grocery stores when youths are on extended school breaks in the summer, spring and winter.

Anyone can show up on Thursday mornings to pack food at Arizona Brainfood, a nonprofit organization in Mesa that also provides the food to schools in Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe, Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, said Ruth Collins, president and founder of Arizona Brainfood.

Every week, the food is delivered to about 115 schools. Collins started the organization in 2009 after hearing disheartening news from a local teacher.

“I was talking to a schoolteacher who would be talking to hungry kids Monday,” she said. “I went home and talked to some people (and) said, ‘Let’s put together a food bag.’ We just started with a few kids and it’s kind of snowballed. We never have a lack of volunteers.”

Collins said the Chandler Service Club is very organized. Corporate sponsors, individuals and grants pay for the students’  food, which includes “a lot of protein,” she said. A donation of $20 feeds one child for a month.

The foods rotate, so one week students might get beef stew and another week SpaghettiOs, Collins said. Chocolate milk and fruit juice are included in the boxes.

The schools try to discreetly give the food to students so they do not feel embarrassed.

C.C. Henkel, Chandler Service Club member and chairman of the Weekenders Program, said the weekly food donations are “definitely my favorite part” of being in the organization. She said school nurses have told her the food boxes make “such a difference on Monday morning” because students in need are not going to the nurse’s office with stomachaches from hunger any longer.

Around the holiday season, the Chandler Service Club also donates toothpaste and toothbrushes to needy youths in Chandler.

Henkel said serving others in the community is a good lesson for her children, who are ages 9, 14 and 15.

“I tell them every day, ‘Look how lucky you are,’” she said.

Henkel said the Chandler Service Club members involved in the Weekenders Program do all the tasks involved in getting the food ready on Thursdays.

“Everybody does everything,” she said. “Everybody packs. It’s a well-oiled machine. We’ve got it down to a science.”

The Chandler Service Club members will do their last Weekenders Program event on Dec. 14 before taking a break around the holidays. They will pick up again on Jan. 11.

Another way the Chandler Service Club gives children a lift is through the Warm Feet Warm Hearts program. They provide a new pair of shoes and socks to any child in need who comes to school wearing worn-out or poor-fitting shoes. The service club members also deliver warm coats to children in the local schools.

Chandler Service Club also tries to boost local families by offering college scholarships. High school seniors and adults who want to pursue a college degree can apply for one of the Helen Pernell and Jewel Lewis Community Scholarships.

Bridget Hanger, president of the Chandler Service Club, has been involved with the organization for five years.

“I have lived in this community for a long time,” Hanger said. “I just wanted to serve our kids.”

Young women find mentors and learn how to give back in the Chandler Service Club’s nine-month-long Flower Girl Program. Students in their senior year of high school participate in community service projects, social events and self-improvement seminars including learning about etiquette and Internet safety.

The roughly 40 young women in the Flower Girl Program delivered pies to children at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley’s Compadre Branch-Chandler the day before Thanksgiving.

“The main idea is to teach them and cultivate a feeling of wanting to give back the rest of their lives,” Hanger said. “We’re trying to build another generation that not just have the want, but they see the need.”

Devan Campbell, 18, of Chandler, already understands the importance of helping people less fortunate in the community. The senior at Hamilton High School said she loves being in the Flower Girl Program. She said she found out about it when girls who were in the school’s dance company with her last year told her about the program.

“It just seemed like something so perfect and something that I wanted to be involved in and to have the group of girls to be with and be friends with,” Campbell said. “I feel like we have so much to thank for in the world, the least we can do is give back. It’s always a good feeling just to see that smile on somebody else’s face and help them.”

Flower Girls get involved in their own “hands of service” projects, including helping veterans, homeless people, cancer survivors and others. Campbell cooks, prepares and serves meals to people in need at Paz de Cristo in Mesa two or three times a month.

“I love it,” she said. “I’ll start seeing people who are there regularly. You just start to get to know them on a personal level. I leave there beyond blessed for the life that I’m living and the live that I have.”

Campbell said the women in Chandler Service Club are like family members to her and are always accessible to answer her questions.

“My mom has told me if I become anything like the ladies here, she would be proud of me,” she said.

Campbell is looking forward to going to a ball for Flower Girls in February, when she and the other young women will be presented and someone will announce their hands of servicework.

Chandler Service Club has about 39 active members, 21 associative members, 19 sustaining members and 17 life members. They all are invited to events and fundraisers, and the ones who are not active members are often called upon for advice. Wollschlager recommends anyone interested in joining the club come to an event to learn more about it or contacts the club at info@chandlerserviceclub.org. To learn more about Chandler Service Club, visit chandlerserviceclub.org.

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