When Ocoee High School, Second Harvest Food Bank and New Destiny Christian Center partner together each month, more than 1,500 people in need get fed.
OCOEE Ocoee High junior Basdaiann-Marie Glidden still remembers the look on a little girl’s face when her grandmother allowed her to pick a chocolate cake at the food pantry — pure joy.
Glidden is one of 90 students at Ocoee High who is involved in the school’s service-learning class. The class, a brainchild of a former teacher at Timber Creek High, is in its inaugural year at Ocoee and encourages students to get out in their community and serve others.
But one community-service project is particularly close to the hearts of her and her classmates. Once per month since September, they have been partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank and New Destiny Christian Center of Apopka to help feed the needy in Orange County.
“Our principal just felt compelled to introduce us (New Destiny and Ocoee), and the kids love Pastor Todd,” said Kim Baker, who teaches the class. “I try to teach them serving others is what they need to do.
PARTNERING AGAINST POVERTY
The partnership started when New Destiny “adopted” Ocoee High through Orange County Public Schools. The Christian center is a partner in education with the school. Most recently it renovated the faculty lounge into a spa-like room and fed the varsity football team each week, and New Destiny Pastor Todd Lamphere acts as a life coach to many of the sports teams on campus.
“What we have at New Destiny is a food pantry system where we bring in a tractor trailer loaded with food — 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of food is dropped off on premises,” Lamphere said. “The service-learning class helps us put it all together, bag it up and distribute it to people who are lined up from 3 a.m. just to get the food. There’s about 300 to 400 families at a time who get served.”
The students can sign up to volunteer at the food pantry event each month. Students obtain permission slips and are off campus serving there for anywhere from four to six hours. Not only are they helping those in need, but also they earn volunteer hours.
“You have them and New Destiny Christian Center and Ocoee High all coming together to meet the need of poverty in our area,” Lamphere said. “New Destiny is about serving needs, and Kim’s class is about serving needs, so it’s a phenomenal partnership for both us and them. They get to interact with people who are hurting and need assistance.”
The volunteers don’t know what kind of food is being dropped off until the truck gets there in the morning and is unloaded. New Destiny and Ocoee High volunteers — sometimes 100 at a time — take on the task of unloading close to 30,000 pounds of food, bagging fresh produce and carrying groceries for people who need assistance.
HAPPY TO HELP
With a passion for serving others, Glidden has taken to the class and the experiences she’s had working with New Destiny to heart. She already has racked up more than 300 volunteer hours this year.
“I wanted to learn more about what I could do, because there are so many organizations we don’t even know about,” she said on joining the class. “It helps others, so it’s worth it to see the smile on someone else’s face, and it makes the world better. Some of these people may not even know where they’re gong to live the next few days.”
“To me, this is really what community’s all about. When the church, the school and the needs come together, you get blessed.” — Todd Lamphere, staff pastor at New Destiny Christian Center of Apopka
Ocoee junior Javier Reyes has volunteered at the food pantry with New Destiny each month since the partnership started last fall. It used to be 20 kids loading up into the church van and heading over, he said. Now, there is so much interest that there’s an overflow waiting list to volunteer and the students have to take a school bus.
“My friends at first were like, ‘Why are you in that class?’ and then I started volunteering and they started saying ‘Hey, how can I do that? How can I join?’” Reyes said. “(And) knowing that you’ve helped other people makes you feel good, especially seeing their reaction afterward. It carries on for them to bring on to another person and kind of creates a chain reaction.”
For Lamphere, it’s just as rewarding to watch the high-schoolers bringing their energy to the room and wanting to help others however they can, whether that be unloading food, handing out and packing groceries or carrying 60 to 80 pounds of food outside for the elderly guests.
“I feel really good about the future when I look at the kids at Ocoee High and what they’re doing,” Lamphere said. “The majority come because they love doing it. They’re meeting a need and it makes them feel great about themselves. Those being serviced love having the young people there, so it’s a win-win all the way around. They’re literally helping people put food on the table. To me, this is really what community’s all about. When the church, the school and the needs come together, you get blessed.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].