By Kat Caudle, Volunteer Coordinator, Newark
In September 2009 I was approached by the Delaware Autism Program (DAP) asking if we could use volunteers from their program. They would supply two teams on two different days and teachers would be available to help guide them. The Food Bank was thrilled to begin this partnership with DAP and we welcomed them with open arms. To start we had Monday and Wednesday morning groups. The students were able to get the projects that we couldn’t get done finished in the hour and a half they spent with us. These groups helped us clean coolers, break down boxes, sort food and build spork packages for our Afterschool Feeding Program. This winter we added an additional class on Tuesdays.
The Delaware Autism Program is a program run through the Christiana School District that allows those students who couldn’t otherwise be in a classroom setting to receive the education they need in order to be productive members of society. Over the past year I’ve watched these students grow and accomplish things they didn’t know they could do. The Food Bank of Delaware helps them keep a schedule and prepares them for the “real world.” But it’s not what the Food Bank can do for them, it’s what they do for us. They help teach our volunteers about what Autism is and how people are living and functioning with it every day. They help us with tasks that would otherwise go undone or only get half finished. In October they made a sign for us to use at our Mobile Pantries that says “Free Food.” When we start to use this sign, we hope it will increase the visibility of our Mobile Pantries; ensuring that even more people are being helped.
Without groups like the Delaware Autism Program and others, many jobs at the Food Bank wouldn’t get done as quickly or efficiently. We thank the teachers, administrators and especially the students from the Delaware Autism Program for their commitment to helping the community around them!