One of the beautiful things about this world, is that whenever things seem dark, there is always a way to give light to those around us.
Kayley Willis felt really helpless. Some of her family members have been going through some very challenging times--and there was nothing she could do to help. But as she thought about it, she realized that though she could not do anything for her cousins, there were a lot of other people she COULD help. And that is how 3E Snacks was born.
Nationally, 1 in 5 children struggle with getting enough food to eat. Kayley had heard of the idea of providing school children with food for the weekend and had looked into it a bit, but when she needed an outlet for her concern for her family members, that is when 3E Snacks became a reality.
"I spoke with the principle of our elementary school in November of 2016. Right off, he knew three kids that needed it. Then we got approval from the superintendent and bags of food went out that week. Within two months, we were in every school in the area."
Kayley is so modest, she doesn't take any credit for this wonderful program--and she didn't want to be in any pictures for this article. "The only way this has been successful is because of the community support. So many people come together to help us make it happen every week."
I had the chance to help with 3E Snacks this week and I was blown away. The group I was with went to an outbuilding near Kayley's home. Inside were shelves lined with food. "We already had this building, so it seemed the perfect place to set up the shelves. This way, I don't have to clean my house when people come over to help," she joked.
Kayley focuses on collecting non-perishable food for children to take home on Friday afternoons and gives them enough food to last until Monday. She works with all of the local schools in her rural community, and now provides weekend and school break food for approximately 130 children.
Doesn't that just give you the chills? That out of someone's heartbreak, 130 children are given food every week?
But where does she get all the food?
"We are so blessed. Every week, I wonder where we will get the food, but it always shows up. We have collection sites around town, and then people will randomly call and ask if they can drop off food and help bag it. Every week, we are able to fill every bag."
I went with a robotics group I mentor, as part of a service project we were doing. The kids had talked to friends and neighbors and had collected food to bring to 3E. We carried in the bags and Kayley directed the kids how to fill the shelves.
After the food was in the correct "breakfast", "lunch", "dinner" or "snack" location, we filled grocery bags with a weekend's worth of food.
"We try to get food that the children can easily fix for themselves. Kids are in a variety of situations, and we don't want them to not be able to eat because an adult was unwilling or unavailable to help prepare food. Our record is filling a bag every 9 seconds."
On Thursdays, Kayley takes the bags to the schools. Subtly, bags will be given to kids in need, so that they can quickly slip them into their backpacks without much attention or embarrassment.
Kayley also directed some of our group into a separate room. "Will you please color these pictures for me?" she asked. When I looked closer, I noticed a coloring page with a stylized "You are Awesome!" printed on it. "We slip these pictures into the food bags. I just want these kids to know that someone cares about them. They might have people in their life who show them love, and they might not."
Later, after all the bags were filled, the once overflowing shelves were empty. As we prepared to leave, Kayley pulled me aside. "Would it be appropriate to say a prayer with this group? We like to say a blessing on the food before we give it away." I assured her that we would be honored to be a part of the prayer.
As I listened to the prayer, my eyes filled with tears. We prayed that the kids would accept the food in the spirit it was given, and that they would feel the love from all of the people who had contributed in any way. We prayed for their health, and for their circumstances. My heart was full, to think of 130 children who had people praying for them every week.
No, Kayley can't help her extended family members with their problems. But she has touched a lot of hearts, made the world a brighter place for 130 kids, and inspired those of us who are privileged to help.
**If you would like to donate to 3E Snacks, you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on Facebook, here.**
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