Summer break can be the hungriest time of the year for kids, but the Olathe Public Library in Olathe, Kansas was fighting hunger with a summer meal program at their two library locations. Youth were fed lunches Monday through Friday at both of library locations. On Fridays the community was also welcomed to participate in a free community lunch.

The Olathe Public Library received a generous grant from Dollar General to hire two interns during the 2018 summer programs. The two teen interns focused on assisting the one staff member run the lunch programs every week day starting from when school got out till the end of summer. Teen intern, Alexis Proctor, also assisted in showing movies and supervising the youth on Monday afternoons during the summer. Alexis completed almost a 100 hours this summer at our Downtown location.

Our second teen intern was Jackie Holst who completed almost 50 hours this summer at our Indian Creek location. She provided some much needed assistance to our seasonal staff member over the lunch programs by providing assistance with room set-up and leading the volunteers.

Alexis and Jackie spent a lot of time interacting with volunteers and families through the lunch program. Friday lunches took a lot of work and organization. Alexis would assist during the week in planning the menu and purchasing for the Friday community lunches and both interns would come early on Fridays to get the food started. Fridays were not shelf stable meals like they were on Monday through Thursday. The meals were always a hot meal, and the meals were open to all. This meant that on Fridays we fed individuals, families, seniors and homeless. We had over 100 people on some Fridays during the summer that came inside the library to eat. Both interns lead about 20 volunteers each at their respective building to help run the lunch programs this summer.

Both interns proved to be a very reliable, honest, energetic, thoughtful, and personable person who keeps their commitments.  Alexis and Jackie were chosen due to their previous years of assisting with the summer lunch program and also being high school students. This summer we knew we needed to have assistance, especially with the Friday community lunches, which was new this summer. They really worked well with the younger volunteers to make the lunch program run smoothly and to feed almost 3,500 people just by the end of July.

Without teen volunteers and teen leaders like Alexis and Jackie, we would not be able to feed the youth and the community in need during the summer. Teen volunteers can bring energy, knowledge, ideas and assistance to your library. If there is something you want to do for your community through your library, but do not have the staffing, see if it would be possible to have teen volunteers. This school year we are having some of our volunteers continue on with the afterschool meal program and tutoring.

Angela Parks, MLIS, is the Teen Services Supervisor at the Olathe Public Library in Olathe, Kansas.

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