Paying It Forward

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Emily Kvalheim is generous with her time.

The 18-year-old senior at Westerville Central High School teaches Sunday school and performs volunteer work for several organizations, including the Mid-Ohio Foodbank in Grove City.

It's Emily's third year volunteering there. She does so through her school's Key Club and National Honor Society. Her duties at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank include sorting and preparing food for distribution.

"It's rewarding," Emily said. "At some point in our lives, we're all going to need help, whether we need food, clothes, or something as small as help with our homework. I think that when you can give other people that help, then you should."

Her mother, Jill Kvalheim, admits that she worries every time her daughter drives a car full of teens on I-71 for their after-school shift at the food bank.

"I'm very proud of her," Jill Kvalheim said. "She's hope for our future."

Of the 9,500 or so volunteers for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, volunteer manager Bev Thompson estimates that between 600 and 700 of them are teens.

Thompson started the organization's after-school program about 10 years ago to get kids off the streets and doing something constructive. It has worked.

"Those teens increase our workforce," Thompson said. "Although they are not paid, they are still what we call employees because they're saving us money."

After-school volunteer shifts are typically held two Thursdays per month during the school year, Thompson said. Teens may also work anytime the Mid-Ohio Foodbank is open and need is especially great during the holiday season.

Student and adult volunteers perform the same duties, Thompson said. They all prepare food to go out to 519 agencies in 20 Central and Eastern Ohio counties.

For some teens, volunteering at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank helps satisfy school community-service requirements.

Brooke Cavallo, a 17-year-old senior at Bishop Hartley High School, said her school requires students to complete 25 service hours per year. Cavallo recently began volunteering at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank as part of her involvement with her school's H.A.R.T.S. Club, a service organization.

Brooke said she appreciates that the Mid-Ohio Foodbank lets students volunteer there on a regular basis. "It's really beneficial for us."

Her mother, Crystal Cavallo, said she taught her daughter that it's important to pay it forward.

"If you can make other people smile," she said, "you'll be much happier in your life."

Get Involved

There are several ways you can sign up to help at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old, four feet 10 inches tall and able to lift up to 30 pounds.