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Food for the Body & Mind

Volunteer program keeps infractions down & grades up in schools

Stop by Immanuel Lutheran Church in Silverton, Oregon, after school on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, and you'll see a beehive of activity. From teens doing homework to playing games and enjoying a meal together, the After-School Activity Program (ASAP) is serving up food for the body and mind.

It was about two years ago when community leaders recognized that young teens in the area often were left to their own devices when the school day ended.

So leaders from four local churches – Immanuel Lutheran, St. Paul Catholic, First Christian and Silverton United Methodist – and the community worked together to create ASAP. In addition to a nourishing meal, ASAP provides homework support, life skill training and healthy activities. All of this happens through donations and dozens of dedicated community volunteers.

We had a great space at Immanuel, which is close to one of the schools, and Immanuel's pastor offered to share and open their doors during this time, two times a week," says Thrivent member Sue Rivers, who has been part of the program from its beginning. She organized a Thrivent Action Team and used the funds to renovate a closet to store ASAP supplies.

Volunteers work with school officials to know what assignments are missing or need completion and assist/tutor as needed. Local businesses provide learning opportunities, such as a vet office coming in to talk about animal science or an engineer helping build a competitive robotics team. Kids also participate in a variety of activities, including ping pong, basketball, volleyball and board games.

The students enjoy a late afternoon meal, and leftovers go home with them.

Since the program began, school infractions are down and grade point averages are up.

"No one ever anticipated how big this would be; we still don't know." Rivers says. "As our pastor has said, we feed these kids in all kinds of ways, in all corners of their lives."

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