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Finding Resilience and Community in the Midst of Uncertain Times
Amanda Bontrager, Director of Advancement

I recently had an eye-opening, and arguably heart-opening, conversation with a friend. It started with me complaining, “I never want to hear words like pivot and new normal again in this lifetime,” and continued with a myriad of my dislikes at this moment. She listened silently. When I was done with my list of grievances, she said, "Are there any words or phrases that have inspired you during this time?" 

I grew silent, drew a deep breath, and uttered the first two words that came to mind: resilience and community. 

I am not sure where those words came from, but they brought a calm over me that I knew was important. I am often reminded that it does not take much to become grounded back into a place of gratitude and typically there is a nice lesson included. With that in mind, I set out to identify the acts of resilience and community that are ever-present before my eyes. 

At Clark, I watch our faculty provide amazing instruction to children in their classrooms and children at home ensuring our community remains connected. I see our students marching through the halls, sitting in tents, and participating in classroom activities happily managing social distancing and mask-wearing - their resilience is inspirational. I witness our facilities team not only taking care of our vast grounds but taking on the vast responsibility of keeping our facility safe and clean for our school community. To me, it seems that these words are embedded in our school days.

More broadly, I looked outside of Clark for instances of these concepts. I witnessed people stepping up to support those in need and vowing to keep the greater Michiana community moving forward and whole during these challenging months. Non-profits around the area are working with stretched budgets and dwindling donations but have found ways to push forward, innovate, and be resilient for those they serve. I have been inspired by social media posts of many of these programs, each one striving to support community members in different ways. One such non-profit recently caught my attention.

A Partnership is Born: Cultivate Food Rescue 

Cultivate Food Rescue was founded in 2017 with the two-fold goal of rescuing food that would normally be thrown away and turning it into nutritious meals that bridge the 68-hour gap between Friday afternoon and Monday morning for students in our community. The pandemic has been troublesome for this non-profit in that there is little food to rescue without local events, banquet halls, and restaurants open. Additionally, finding volunteers to help pack the meals for the children has been hard - but backpacks with six nutritious meals for the weekend continue to go out to every one of the 700 students they serve. 

Faculty Serving at Cultivate Foods

At the beginning of the school year, I was looking for a way for our faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees to come together outside of SCS. This team has been working so hard to forge the best path for our school and students that I felt some time for levity was warranted. So, I floated an idea about volunteering as a team to help Cultivate with their efforts. 

I was astounded at the response. There was such enthusiasm at the chance for comradery while doing good for students in our local school systems. We set up three volunteering nights for faculty/staff and Board members. Each night not only produced hundreds of meals for students in our area but a sense of connectedness to our greater community.

8th grade students serving at Cultivate Foods

Our students took notice. The 8th-grade class enthusiastically asked for the chance to volunteer with Cultivate. We discussed the importance of this opportunity for our students as many of the service-learning programs they participate in are no longer taking volunteers. The students were ready for this experience and felt a great connection to the work they were doing for the children in neighboring schools. Word spread throughout our middle school and now more grades would like to participate. Our faculty and staff have also asked for more dates to volunteer as a team. I could not be more proud to be part of the Clark Family!

8th grade students serving at Cultivate Foods

Character development is a core focus at Stanley Clark. We seek to introduce our students to their role in the greater community and foster a commitment to service beyond their years at SCS. We have woven lessons in empathy, leadership, teamwork, and service to others into our instruction. This is something we take great pride in and that our generous donors continue to champion year after year.

8th grade students serving at Cultivate Foods

Taking it a Step Further: Clark Day of Giving

As we enter into the season of giving, we decided to ask our donors not only to support our mission but help us partner with Cultivate Food Rescue. Our team will continue to volunteer but we have also decided to pledge 10% of our annual Clark Day of Giving proceeds to support their efforts. This year, more than ever, the loyal and generous support of donors will allow us to strengthen the Clark community, provide the safety measures needed to protect our students and faculty, and support the technology and program enhancements needed for our faculty to deliver on our mission every day. 

By first supporting the mission of The Stanley Clark School and character development in our students, there will be a trickle effect on our local community. Our goal is to raise $35,000 on Wednesday, December 9, 2020. This will allow us to raise needed funds for Stanley Clark AND in turn, allows us to donate $3500 to Cultivate Food Rescue to underwrite 100 backpacks, feeding 100 children for one month. 

Helping our community be resilient - one gift, twice the impact! It has a nice ring.

8th grade students serving at Cultivate Foods

About the Author

Amanda Bontrager

Amanda Bontrager

Director of Advancement

abontrager@stanleyclark.org

 

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  • service learning

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