Merrimack Valley Food Bank and Lazarus House Ministries – A Very Special Thank You

Amy Pessia, Executive Director of Merrimack Valley Food Bank, talks about the interdependent relationship with Lazarus House, how our Missions align beautifully and a cooperative 20-year partnership in serving our community – providing nutrition and freedom from hunger and food insecurity. Food Insecurity Facts: There has been a 102% increase in food-insecure children since COVID began 21.8% of MA households with children are currently suffering from food insecurity 1 in 6 White, 1 in 4 Latinx, and 1 in 3 Black households face food insecurity Sources: Feeding America , Project Bread

Seventh Graders Fight to End Poverty

On a class visit to Lazarus House, seventh graders Gauri Kumar and Joeyanna Hodnett developed a brilliant idea. A way to reuse technology to help the Guests of Lazarus House.

Every year, the Pike School seventh-grade class does a food drive. This year, after the food drive the seventh-grade class took a tour of Lazarus House. “It was pretty amazing to visit Lazarus house,” Kumar said. The seventh-grade class had never gone to visit Lazarus House before this trip. “We were walking through the study area and there were kind of old computers there,” said Kumar.

At Pike School, iPads become mandatory in the sixth grade. “I thought about how much technology has helped with learning, and I wanted to get technology to help other people learn too,” Kumar said.

Kumar thought of her sister’s unused iPad at home. “We thought we could do something [with the iPad] and use it,” Hodnett said. From this thought, Hodnett and Kumar developed the idea of Tech for Hope. Taking unused technology, iPads, laptops, computers, etc. and donating them to Lazarus House.

Tech for Hope began taking donations at Pike School. The tech donors follow links given by Tech for Hope and follow instructions to get their technology as if it were brand new, without any customizations. Then Hodnett and Kumar deliver the donated technology to Lazarus House for their Guests.

“Technology opens so many doors for people. You can do a job application and many other things,” Hodnett said. “Technology has opened doors for us. We want to give others the access to open those doors as well,” said Kumar.

Tech for Hope began receiving donations right before the coronavirus pandemic. Due to restrictions, Kumar and Hodnett have been unable to deliver their technology donations to Lazarus House. “We have a few donations but haven’t been able to give them to Lazarus House yet, due to COVID-19,” Hodnett said.

“We would really like to get more donations; so many people need them,” said Hodnett. “The more [donations] we get, the more we can give.” Hodnett and Kumar plan on continuing Tech for Hope in the future. “We don’t want to stop one day. We want it to keep going as long as we can,” said Hodnett.

If you would like more information or would like to donate to Tech for Hope, contact Tech for Hope Faculty Advisor Julie Ogden at jogden@pikeschool.org or Gauri Kumar at kumar.gauri098@gmail.com

Family Uses Organizational Skills in Pandemic to Help Lazarus House

Logan, 13

Many great things come in small packages. The Reuss family of three who recently began volunteering at Lazarus House is one example. Grady-16, Logan-13 and their mother Jen knew Lazarus House for years but made time this year to get involved with volunteering.

“Serving at Lazarus was something we had always talked about,” Jen Reuss said. “We really wanted to work [volunteering] into our life for a really long time. We investigated a lot of different opportunities. Lazarus House is such a part of this community. It seemed like a nice fit and it works great for us,” Jen said.

The Reuss family works on organizational projects that work well with their busy schedule. Jen noted, “Between sports commitments and school activities, our lives can be quite busy. So, this has been a nice way to work [volunteering] into our lives.” The flexibility of the Reuss family projects helps them to take on more.

Jen, Grady and Logan Reuss began working on managing the database for Lazarus House before COVID-19 restrictions began. They continue to work on managing the database in addition to organizing the kitchen, games center and bookshelves through the summer while following Lazarus House COVID-19 safety protocols . “We’re sprucing up the shelter for when it reopens,” Jen said.

The Reuss family cares!

Service is important to the Reuss Family. “It is great to expose my kids to volunteering, especially in their younger years. Service is vital to community success,” Jen said. The Reuss family has had fun working together in service and even sharing in some laughs.

The family of three enjoys volunteering. “It makes my heart happy with the level of respect Lazarus House has for their guests. They really believe in what they do,” said Jen Reuss. “The staff is so lovely. They are really beautiful people, it makes it nice to volunteer,” Reuss said.

The Reuss family encourages volunteering with Lazarus House. “Everyone can do it,” said Logan Reuss.  “They work with what you have and use your talents with what they need,” Jen continued. “Tell them your interests or what you think you can do. Just reach out. They are happy to work with you.” “The opportunities are extensive because the need is extensive.”

In the future, the Reuss family looks forward to fixing all the organizational needs of Lazarus House and expanding into other ways of serving once COVID-19 restrictions loosen. “We have thought about helping out at the food pantry and baking cakes for birthdays.”