Each day in Sedalia and in three surrounding counties, a group of dedicated men and women help to care for more than 900 residents through their volunteer efforts.
The Open Door Summer Food Program has served warm meals on a daily basis to children 18 and younger for the last seven years and would like to help more, but to do that, they need a little help.
“We truly are a volunteer organization with one goal in mind, to feed kids,” said Sue Foster, Open Door summer food coordinator. “The more volunteers we have the more kids we can feed.
“We don’t ask questions, we don’t care what someone’s income is or ask where they live, we just want to feed all the children who show up,” she added. “The way we can do this though is through the volunteers who make it possible.”
The program has a staff of 12 who arrive at Smith-Cotton Junior High at 6 a.m. to begin the meal preparation.
“We do have some paid employees who do most of the food preparation,” said Valarie Schultz, food service director for the program. “Virtually everything else from the packaging to the delivery is done by our volunteers.
“It takes a lot of planning and this year we really have been doing a lot more homemade meals for the kids,” she added. “Everything that we serve meets all of the federal guidelines for nutrition but we try to provide a variety of meals.”
Nancy Boles, head cook for the program, added that this year they have served meals ranging from homemade chicken and noodles to some international meals including Asian and Mexican-inspired dishes.
After the food is prepared, the volunteers step in to package the food while others deliver the meals to an average of 56 sites daily throughout Pettis, Cooper, Morgan and Benton counties.
“One of the ways that we provide help to Open Door is to bring together our funded partners with the mobilization of volunteers to help provide services to others,” said Staci Harrison, executive director of Sedalia-Pettis County United Way. “Lately, we’ve been reaching out to rural schools to ensure they have access to the services that we and our funded agencies provide.
“Open Door is a partner in that,” she added. “It is tremendous what they do and we all have a role in helping Sedalia and the surrounding communities.”
Each day an average of 72 volunteers help with the Food Service Program and Wednesday was no exception.
“(Wednesday) is one of our Corporate Volunteer Days of Service,” said Robert Hostetler, compliance farm auditor for Vital Farms. “We’re based out of Austin, Texas, and we operate free-range chicken farms.
“We have an egg-grading facility nearby, Mid-States Specialty Eggs, and some of the employees from that facility and out of Kansas City came down today to help here and at the (Open Door Thrift) Store.
“I think it’s been an awesome experience helping today,” he added. “I hope we have the chance to do this again soon.”
Volunteers do not have to work every day to help and for Foster that is one of the unique features of the program.
“Each day we have a group of people who just show up and help volunteer,” Foster said. “Many of them have never met one another or ever worked together but they come here and they just pick up and go.
“Without all of our volunteers our program definitely wouldn’t have morphed into what it is now,” she added. “We are all extremely grateful for the time that all of the individuals who help and volunteer have provided, we couldn’t do this without them.”
Individuals or organizations who would like to volunteer at the Summer Lunch Program may contact Foster at Open Door by calling 660-596-3922.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.