The first step in team generosity: Joy Graeff picked up a brochure on Food for the Hungry (FH) at a concert. The event featured Toby Mac, one of many valued FH artist partners.
Joy, who is an 8th grade math teacher at Hershey Middle School in Pennsylvania, quickly made a choice to become a child sponsor. “He was a little boy, Bereket, in Ethiopia,” Joy says of her first FH sponsored child.
Child Sponsorship is a Team Effort
In addition to teaching eighth grade, Joy is head coach for the women’s tennis team at Lebanon Valley College (LVC) in nearby Annville, where her husband, Dave Remsbeurg, is head for the men’s tennis team. After Joy started sponsoring Bereket, she was excited to tell her team. She shared a photo of Bereket at their next practice. And, she told them more about Bereket and Ethiopia from the info FH shared with her.
“We all decided, together, to take photos of the team and send them in the first letter to Bereket in Ethiopia.”
It wasn’t unusual to involve the team in her new project. “We get very close to the students on the tennis team,” Joy explains. “There are lots of away matches, and we travel together. We have Christmas parties. It’s very much a family atmosphere. They range in age from 18 to 22, and some call us their second parents.”
Generosity is Contagious
“The team has also undertaken a number of fund-raising projects during their time together,” Joy said. They provided flags for veterans on Veterans Day and made blankets for 1,300 abused children.
“This year, there are many seniors are on the team, so we wanted to do something special,” Joy said. “They were gathered for the fall tournament, and I asked them to choose a project. One of the things I shared with them was the FH Gift Catalog, and they got excited about the possibilities.”
Lock Down Didn’t Slow Them Down
But then, just before Thanksgiving, the students had to return home as a result of COVID-19 precautions. “So they started having conversations on Zoom and found ways to continue to do this together,” Joy said.
“In all, nearly 20 kids participated.”
Child Sponsorship to Catalog Shopping
“And the parents of students got involved too. They were excited by the possibilities when they read through the FH Gift Catalog,” Dave added.
After perusing the catalog, the students – with some input from their parents – decided to donate a school latrine (community bathroom).
“They wanted something that wasn’t ordinary,” said Dave. “It hadn’t occurred to us that there are people who don’t have use of a toilet. It is amazing to think that one gift like that can make many people’s lives more convenient,” he added.
“But, of course, it’s more than that. It can be the difference between disease and a healthy life. Keeping healthy is such an issue. Poor health keeps people from getting an education and doing so many other things.”
“And we learned they don’t have a single bathroom in many of these entire communities,” Joy said. “Yet we have bathrooms at our tennis court!”
“We loved doing it – and, since we were all in quarantine when we decided to do this, it was so much easier that we could use Venmo,” added Dave. “It was great to still have a way to do something together.”
Gifting What We Take for Granted
“It was just $10 a person, and Joy and Dave matched the donation,” explained Zoe Birch, one of the seniors, who will graduate with a degree in Early Childhood and Special Education this spring and plans to teach in the fall.
“Each year Joy would ask us what we wanted to do as a team to help others. This year we thought about what we most take for granted, and the bathroom certainly qualified,” Zoe said.
How Do You Wrap Sheep?
“After buying the community bathroom, there was still money left over. So we looked through the catalog and decided to buy some small livestock – some chickens and sheep to help their families become more self-sufficient. We had never bought things to help children before, and it brings a lot of joy to our hearts.”
Ben Hinkley is also a senior at Lebanon Valley College and a member of the tennis team who took part in the project.
“Service and volunteerism opportunities are important to me,” he explained.
A Small Donation Goes Far
“The gift catalog is such a great idea. You can do so much for $10, which is nothing here – even to college students like me! But it goes so far in these places where Food for the Hungry works!
“A part of the LVC tennis team will always be there with the community that receives our donations, and that’s a great feeling,” Ben added.
Child Sponsorship Keeps Giving
In addition, Joy has chosen to sponsor a second child with FH, a little girl from Burandi. And she happily displays two photos of Bereket in Ethiopia – the first of him as a small boy when she first started sponsoring him, and the second a recent one, showing a confident youth who is happy and fortunate to still be benefitting from her generosity.
Related blog posts: