Joplin Bright Futures calls on community for Lunch PALS volunteers

Student mentors needed, kids on waiting list
Joplin Bright Futures calls on community for Lunch PALS volunteers
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Joplin Bright Futures calls on the community to fill the need for Lunch PALS volunteers.

PALS stands for “Positive Adults Lunching with Students.”

It’s lunchtime at Jefferson Elementary School where 8-year-old Anthony Floyd is chowing down with his lunch pal: John Boyd.

“How are the fries?”

“Awesome!”

They talk about lot’s of things.

“How I’m doing in school, what I want to eat,” explained Floyd.

It’s a fun experience for both.

“My kids are raised, and so here I am again doing this and just being a part of their lives is just amazing to me. I love it,” expressed Boyd, a Lunch PALS volunteer.

The program is a commitment to have lunch with a student each week. It only takes 20 minutes, but for many, the connection is forever lasting.

“We’ve actually got some Lunch PALS that started their relationship in elementary school, they’re now in high school, and they still get to meet every week,” said Dale Peterson, Community Engagement Coordinator with Bright Futures Joplin.

The program is a district-wide initiative that began in 2011, aimed at pairing adults with kids who need them most.

“I wish we could have a lunch pal for every kid. I really think there would be great benefit with that, but frankly, there’s a list, a waiting list at every elementary school, waiting for a community volunteer to be approved and match up.”

“So where you at on your times tables.”

“I’m on my 4’s.”

“Nice!”

It’s a rewarding experience for volunteers like Boyd. For the past four years, he’s seen kids transform, academically and socially, coming out of their shell.

“I came here to be a blessing and I’m the one who’s being blessed. With a former lunch pal, that is now at North, we have just become very close. It’s just a relationship. He can tell me anything that he needs to and that he probably wouldn’t tell anyone else. I think the relationship part of this is the best.”

Peterson said, “Lives are changed because of this. I’ve seen volunteers lives changed because they met a kid that loved them unconditionally. How cool is that?”

All Lunch PALS go through an application process that includes a background check.

Interested in volunteering? Fill out an application here.

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