Before Janine Skinner, of Phoenix, became development advisor for Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), she was a devoted mother of three looking for a way to volunteer with her family and make a difference. By 2009, she had become so involved with the organization that she was offered her current position at the nonprofit.
To broaden the volunteer and donor base in Arizona, Skinner helped establish a temporary Tempe site in 2010, followed by today’s permanent site in Mesa. FMSC now offers families across Arizona the opportunity to experience the powerful transformation that comes from giving back.
“Half of our mission is to feed the hearts of the people who volunteer,” says Skinner.
Valuable lessons for kids
Volunteering at FMSC is an activity the whole family can enjoy. Children as young as 5 can be active participants in the process of packing bags of food for those in need. For many of the children, it’s the first opportunity to experience what it’s like to serve—and it can have a real impact.
Skinner says the hope is to inspire children to be lifetime volunteers. She says it’s especially powerful when they witness their parents actively involved, too: “It inspires kids to find something of their own to be passionate about.”
The atmosphere at FMSC is fun and upbeat. With music blasting, groups race against each other on assembly lines, bringing out friendly competition in many of the participants. By the end of the session, kids are often so excited they are begging their parents to come back.
Members of the Pettigrew family, of Scottsdale, are returning volunteers at FMSC. Seven-year-old Katie says she enjoys helping because it’s a place where “I can use my outside voice.” In fact, shouting, dancing, singing and laughing are all encouraged at FMSC.
Her older sister Mia, 12, brought her friend Adaire Braning, 13, to FMSC as part of a social studies assignment. As seventh graders at Mountainside Middle School in Scottsdale, they were asked to donate one hour of their time to community service. “Instead of helping out a neighbor, we decided to help the whole world!” says Adaire.
Mom Tracy Pettigrew says she feels the children relate to the mission of the organization “because it’s kids helping kids.”
FMSC touches lives around the world
At the end of the two-hour session, volunteers are told how many boxes they have packed and how this translates into the number of children’s lives touched—one box of food equals 216 meals. They also learn that just 22 cents buys one meal, while $80 feeds a child for one year. “They never look at a quarter the same way again,” says Skinner.
A video presentation introduces them to real people whose lives have been transformed through FMSC. A sample of the rice-based meal is offered to volunteers so they can experience for themselves how good the food tastes.
Groups or individuals can sign up online for two-hour time slots. There is also a marketplace that sells handiwork from artisans from around the world. Donations are welcome. “Food Is Hope” T-shirts are available for any donation of $50 or more.