It just takes a few minutes to walk the length of downtown Lawton, and in that short amount of time, it's clear what makes the sleepy Van Buren County municipality special.
Every fall, practically every window along that three-block stretch is decorated with paintings and signs showing support for Lawton High School sports, showing the Blue Devil student-athletes that the community is behind them.
The Lawton football team took time out of its hectic schedule this week to assist local families who were experiencing food insecurity.
All 50 of the Blue Devils varsity football players gathered on Monday in the high school library to pack bags of food that will be given to elementary-, middle-, and high school-aged children in the district through a new initiative called Gracious Hearts, four days before the team is scheduled to play Jackson Lumen Christi in the regional finals.
A non-profit organization called Gracious Hearts was founded in March by Martha Lull to supply children in the Lawton area with food on days when there are no classes and no free or reduced meals are offered.
When the travel softball team of Lull's daughter participated in volunteer work for a comparable organization in Vicksburg, she was inspired to found the non-profit.
Lull stated, "I started thinking about implementing this in my community. We need to get this moving," I abruptly declared one day after giving it some thought.
Just over 30 bags of shelf-stable food were initially delivered to families in Lawton, but as Gracious Hearts received donations and grants to launch the project, the number of bags quickly grew to 120.
For Lull and her two fellow Gracious Hearts board members, Kim Triemstra and Juliann Bradish, packing that many bags takes hours, but with Lawton's well-oiled football team helping out, the food is packed into 120 bags in just a few minutes.
The football players from Lawton "really make me cry because they care," said Lull. They genuinely care about the children in their neighborhood that require assistance. I hope people realize what it means. I find it all to be tear-jerking. It holds a particular place in my heart.
Wade Walrup, the head coach, didn't think twice to solicit the assistance of his entire team when he learned the group required volunteers to be able to deliver the bags of food by Wednesday.
When you volunteer for someone you know and have a connection to, you might even be assisting your best friend's family, he explained.
The football squad has previously worked on tasks including cleaning out townhouses, light demolition work, and volunteering their time to the Lawton Lions Club.
Regarding his team's volunteer endeavors, Waldrup noted, "We strive to do it a lot." "During the summer, our calendar often fills up very quickly. Many people want us to lend a hand, and since they do greatly support us, we feel partly obligated to do so."'
Since almost everyone in this town is at the football game on Friday nights, this is the greatest time to go downtown and steal stuff. I believe that youngsters are aware of it, and they frequently have a connection to the person who is responsible for Lawton's good causes.
We just felt it was incredibly essential to give back after all the support they showed us while we were traveling the state last year and receiving donations from them.
In the past two weeks, Martha has moved the organization's pantry inside Lawton High School, freeing up some space and making it simpler for volunteers to lend a hand. Previously, Gracious Hearts mostly operated out of the Lull family's home, where the family would store and bag upwards of $600 worth of food each week.
The originator of the group has put in a lot of labor, including weekly grocery shopping, bagging, and delivery, but it has been satisfying employment.
"I was one of those kids growing up, so I just have a lot of empathy for these kids, and I know what they're going through, and it's difficult, especially right now in these times," Martha said. "Just knowing that I am helping kiddos make sure they have food for the weekend." It's extremely difficult on parents, no matter what they're dealing with.
Even while the number of children receiving a Gracious Hearts food bag has nearly quadrupled since it began, Martha said recent food and monetary donations have slowed, and the charity needs ongoing help to keep providing weekend meals to children in the area.
Visit the Gracious Hearts website by clicking here for additional details on how to donate, volunteer, or organize a food drive to benefit the organization.
The above article is selected by CoolDeeds.org. The information and the assets belong to their respective owners (original link).
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