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Thinking outside the food box

The Lynn, Mass., Corps Community Center has delivered thousands of food boxes to a needy community during COVID-19, but Captain Helen Johnson saw another need.

Johnson said her own three children were bored from the quarantine and she figured the 40 kids who attend the after–school program at the corps felt the same way. She decided to put together packages of school supplies and activity books for them.

“Some of them live in housing projects,” she said. “I know these kids don’t have much. They don’t have that many toys or things to do, so we went around and delivered to them.”

Some of the students also couldn’t access their online schoolwork because they lack an internet connection or a printer.

“For a couple of them, we printed out their schoolwork for them,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the corps stuffed the packages with leftover school supplies from the fall and Christmas toys. The corps also started giving out the packages with food boxes.

Johnson said the effort allowed her to contribute while also caring for her children.

“It forces us to think out of the box because we want to connect with our people and don’t know how,” she says. “So, we either deliver stuff to their doorstep or connect with them on computer, if they have that technology or we just call them. It’s difficult, especially for those on the fringes if we don’t have their information.”

Johnson called it a blessing to see where the children of her corps live.

“I never knew where all of them lived because we use a bus company that drops them off,” she said. “Now when I pray for them, I can envision their houses in their surroundings.”

For example, when she heard on the news about a recent shooting in Lynn, she was familiar with the location.

“I recognized the street right away. One of the kids from our after–school program lives close to where the shooting happened,” she said. “Being out of school and away from after–school programs like ours puts kids in danger of many things that the news just doesn’t talk about.”

Johnson said while she and her husband, Captain Kevin Johnson, are “doing what we’re called to do” as officers, she had praise for the behind-the-scenes workers who are delivering food boxes and the goodies for the children.

“It’s our employees and volunteers who are the heroes in keeping things going,” she said.

by Robert Mitchell