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‘It’s fun to serve people’: Generation Alive Action teams leading food distribution at local schools

Generation Alive Action Team members Ashley Beasley, left, and Kambria DeGroat, of Prairie View Elementary School, wait to distribute fresh produce and frozen meals tofamilies driving to Brentwood Elementary School, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Mead, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

They call them Action Teams for a reason.

On a recent Wednesday at Brentwood Elementary, “YMCA” pounded from a music system and rain poured down in buckets while elementary school students hefted boxes of food and bags of potatoes and apples, delivering them to waiting cars.

It was Kambria DeGroat’s 11th birthday.

“It’s fun to serve people, I really like it,” she said. “They always say ‘Thank you’ and are so nice.”

The students from Prairie View and Meadow Ridge elementary schools are members of Generation Alive Action Teams.

Founded in 2012 by former professional baseball pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, a three-time World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants, and his wife, Larisa, Generation Alive’s mission is to empower youth to compassionately engage the needs of their community through action and service.

“We partner with 25 schools locally,” said Darin Duty, program director.

Action Teams participate in a 14-week leadership program at their schools that typically culminates in a large community service event.

Duty said the kids would raise money to address food insecurity and host a huge food-packing event in their school’s gym.

The COVID-19 pandemic stymied those plans.

“Then Second Harvest said they could use help distributing food,” Duty said.

And a new plan was born.

Each week Action Team members meet at Brentwood on Wednesdays and Lakeside Middle School on Thursdays and hand out boxes of food provided by Second Harvest.

At Brentwood, families arriving to pick up school lunches can make another stop and have food delivered to their cars by Action Team members. The students wear masks and gloves.

On a recent Wednesday, kids hefted boxes of frozen food featuring hash browns, pie crusts and mini bagels, and shouldered boxes of dry goods, too. The dry goods boxes contained items such as muffin mix, cereal and pasta. Every family got a box of each, and bags of apples and potatoes.

The students tucked notes of encouragement into many of the boxes.

“Our motto is sympathy plus action equals compassion,” said Duty.

Monica Wallace teaches sixth grade at Meadow Ridge. She watched her students tote food to a steady stream of cars.

“It has rained three Wednesdays in a row, but I haven’t heard one complaint,” she said. “You can’t help but feel good when you’re helping others.”

At Meadow Ridge, kids give up their lunch recess each week to meet with Generation Alive interns who teach them leadership skills. Because of school closures, those meetings have moved online.

“It’s such a positive group of kids,” Wallace said. “Everybody is welcomed and feels included.”

Evan Heuett is one of them.

“I signed up because I wanted to help people,” he said.

That help is appreciated. A child in one car gave the students a handwritten note.

“Thank you for helping familys (sic). We’re in this together,” it read.

During a brief lull, the students sipped cups of hot chocolate provided by Dutch Bros. But the pauses in traffic were few and far between, because the need is great. Toward the end of the afternoon they ran out of food for the first time.

“We had to turn away about 10 cars,” Duty said.

Generation Alive Action Teams plan to continue the food distribution through the end of July, and the students are committed to helping every week.

“Giving people food is the best part,” Blake Bushnell said. “It makes me happy.”