Serving with joy
Aubrey organization implements Adopt-a-Box program
Karen Mattson wanted to find a way to have families work together to help feed kids in need in their community.
Lovepacs–Aubrey launched its Adopt-a-Box program officially on June 23.
“I have been overwhelmed and amazed at our community,” said Mattson, the new Lovepacs–Aubrey area community leader. “I challenged our community – I had purchased 75 boxes and challenged them to fill those 75 and as to date, 90 boxes have been adopted.”
Mattson drew on the examples of other groups, including the Denton and Little Elm chapters of Lovepacs, using a similar donation style.
“I want to make it as easy for that person to do it, so they’ll want to continue to do it,” Mattson said.
Food insecurity and chronic hunger cause toxic stress and decrease a child’s cognitive bandwidth, according to the website for the American Psychological Association. It also reports that “severe hunger is associated with anxiety and depression among children.”
Mattson’s goal aligns with that of the organization as a whole: engaging the community to feed children in need as an expression of love.
Lovepacs provides food to help students who may not otherwise eat during long school breaks during Thanksgiving break, winter break and spring break. The Aubrey chapter has a home for its pantry at the Aubrey Country Church.
Mattson is focusing on the Aubrey ISD schools – Brockett Elementary, Monaco Elementary, Aubrey Middle School, Aubrey High School and Early Bird Learning Center. She is getting help from a fellow volunteer, Sara Comport, who lives in Savannah and is leading the collections and delivery for schools in the Braswell Zone within Denton ISD.
To participate in the Adopt-a-Box program, a community member first reaches out to Mattson through email at email@example.com or through the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Lovepacsaubrey. She will then deliver a 12-inch by 12-inch box with a supply list and instructions attached.
Each box costs about $23-$30 to fill, Mattson said. The variability depends on where the food is purchased and what types of snacks are selected.
After being filled, the box can be returned to Mattson.
“Don’t seal it because we have to check everything,” she said.
For Mattson, having families pack the supplies themselves as opposed to other donation styles helps the people donating, particularly children, feel a connection with the families who will be receiving their box.
“I felt like it was important to have those heart-to-heart, hard conversations with our kids about hardships, life struggles and the lack of basic needs within our community, and that comes with the activity that is involved,” Mattson said.
Mattson has a son, Gabriel, who is going into first grade. She said she wants to share her love of service with him as he grows up. She added that she also hopes giving to others helps inspire kids to feel more gratitude for the resources they have available.
That’s also why she encourages those donating to include a “sweet note or card of love, encouragement and support.”
“Unfortunately, there is shame and guilt that comes with poverty and hunger,” Mattson said. “And my hope is to send a message of love and hope and inclusion to let them know that they are not alone and that we support them in the midst of their struggle.”
Stacey Stearns and her husband Robert have three young sons. They chose to participate for multiple reasons.
“The biggest thing is that we’re actually a low-income family,” Stearns said. “It’s something that’s really affordable, and that the kids at their age can understand.”
Their family took about a week to pack their box, which allowed them to have more than one paycheck come in as they collected the needed items.
“When we can share, we need to,” Stearns said.
She spoke highly of the level of “flexibility and convenience” the chapter has provided.
“It’s so great how hard they’re working to make it as convenient as possible to still be charitable,” Stearns said. “Because, if you want, it can be as simple as she’s willing to drop you the box and also come pick it back up. So you can’t really get more convenient than that.”
Her children liked getting to create pictures for the child receiving the box the most, she said.
“That made it a fun aspect as well,” Stearns said.
She took the opportunity to give a lesson on empathy.
“We talked about how it would feel if it was them that … didn’t always have food when school wasn’t in session, how that would make them feel,” Stearns said. “And so, they got excited once it was done and they got to put their pictures in.”
Although Mattson is willing to pick up the boxes, Stearns and her boys chose to return theirs by foot because they live near Mattson.
“They got the wagon out and pulled it over,” she said.
Having 90 packed boxes before the start of the school year gets the organization prepared for Thanksgiving, based on the number of students it served last year, and potentially helps Lovepacs–Aubrey get a head start on prepping for Christmas break.
Typically, giving is heavy around Thanksgiving and then tapers off throughout the rest of the school year, Mattson said.
The organization takes donations, which can be individual food items, an adopted box, notes and money, throughout the year to help care for children in the Aubrey area.
Extra supplies that do not work for the packs go to the Hope Food Bank.
No matter the time of year or the method of donation, Mattson wants to make participating in Lovepacs a happy experience.
“Once you have that joy of actually giving, you’ll want to do more,” Mattson said.