Monday, August 30, 2010


Last week I was invited to volunteer with United Way of West Central Minnesota's Growmobile. Along with Willmar Bremer Bank President, MaryAnn Doyle, and United Way Success by 6 Coordinator, Regina Schmitz, pictured here, we were ready for a day of interacting with kids.

Regina, accompanied by Jenna, a college student working with United Way this summer, drives the Growmobile every weekday during the summer months to three low-income neighborhoods in Willmar. Stopping for just under an hour in each spot, it was clear to us that the children and parents eagerly await the arrival of the bus. We help with reading a story to a small group of kids gathered around a park picnic table on one stop; pass out coloring books and crayons and play bingo with kids on another stop; help a group do a craft project on yet another stop. We chat with kids and parents. Noah's mom tells me he won't wear anything on his feet except his slippers; that's him over there with fuzzy red slippers shooting hoops. A little boy asks me to help him stick some pine needles in his potato head so it's different than the grass hair being glued on the other kids' potatoes. Kids can always make you laugh.

Everybody gets lunch before we leave, and since it's a Friday, we also hand out backpacks loaded with groceries for the weekend. Salvation Army and Willmar Area Food Shelf work with United Way to make this happen, and it's an impressive coalition of nonprofit organizations focused on helping where help is needed most. Riding back to the bank, MaryAnn and I tell Regina and Jenna that the day has been very rewarding and informative. It's apparent to us that Regina, Jenna and the Growmobile are the highlight of the day for these youngsters. What a great program!

Lois Schmidt, NRS, Willmar

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