After turning 18, many of these young adults don’t have the skills to live successfully on their own. Often, they struggle to make ends meet and don’t have enough food to ease their hunger.
Enter Holly Packer, a foster care system volunteer, who came up with the idea that people could donate “just three things a month” to help stock a food pantry for the newly independent, transitioning youth. “Anything donated will find a stomach,” she says.
Q: What prompted you to start Just 3 Things (J3T)?
A: In March, 2011, I was given a tour of Jewish Family and Children’s Service Real World Job Development program that opened my eyes to the obstacles and hardships faced by youth who have transitioned out of the foster care system – a big transition that comes with little support. RWJD supports the youth by helping them obtain their GED through an onsite classroom, find jobs and secure housing. The staff also assists these youth in navigating the “real world” by teaching them the most basic skills of independent living. The youth strive to succeed despite the hardships they face each day. After touring, when I asked the staff how I could get involved, they had a simple yet powerful reply: “These kids are hungry.” So, I went home and founded J3T.
Q: How does it feel to know you’re making a difference in these teens’ lives?
A: Over the past 7 years, I have received countless thank you notes in their own words from the youth. Their comments reflect the importance of Just 3 Things:
“I come to RWJD to get my education and learn to live independently. Since I’ve left CPS (Child Protective Services) I’ve been struggling with food. So it really helps me to come here and get food.”
“Because of J3T I wasn’t hungry and I was able to succeed in school.”
“I’m just a couple months away from graduation and the food really helps. Because (you’re) helping today, I will help tomorrow.”
Q: Can you describe some of the challenges you face with J3T?
A: There are 170 youth at RWJD who need donated food. [All the] food that comes into the pantry goes out, and there is never enough. Finding new sources for donated food is an ongoing challenge.
Q. What would you like people to know about J3T?
A: J3T is a program that has improved the lives of countless youth through the simple offering of food. Thanks to the continued generosity of our community, RWJD has a stocked food pantry. Now, when the youth arrive at RWJD, they know they can count on a meal and can leave with some food to take home. Hunger is no longer a daily problem for these kids as they take positive steps forward.
Q: How can others get involved?
A: A volunteer can become a “food raiser” by finding people and businesses that are willing to support the J3T food pantry. Some ideas include gathering food at holiday events; donating food in lieu of hostess or birthday gifts; giving free admission to events by donating three food items; bringing food donations to schools during themed events; and donating food through clubs and businesses.
Q: What are some of the suggested non-perishable foods that people can donate?
A: Pre-packaged dinners, microwaveable macaroni and cheese, chili, canned meats and chicken, Spaghetti-Os, canned fruit, trail mix, granola bars, crackers, dried fruit, cereal and tuna. Toiletries are also needed.
For more information about J3T, visit jfcsaz.org.