Scout serves up a meal full of thanks for Eagle project

December 22, 2008

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Before lunch begins, Connor Callahan leads the volunteer group who prepared and would be serving food in a prayer of Thanksgiving. By Robin CallahanBefore lunch begins, Connor Callahan leads the volunteer group who prepared and would be serving food in a prayer of Thanksgiving. By Robin Callahan

Thanksgiving dinner is hard enough to prepare for your own family — but preparing it for 250 people is another story. 

But it was a challenge that the Liberty High School community was willing to help 17-year-old Connor Callahan tackle to earn his Eagle Scout rank.  

“It was a life changing experience,” he said. 

There are plenty of projects Scouts can tackle to earn their Eagle Scout rank. Some recent projects by local Scouts have included creating trails and wetlands areas at schools, and holding food drives for Issaquah Valley Community Services. 

Callahan’s project, to help feed people through Community Lunch, quickly turned into a full-scale community endeavor. “I am happy that our community could come together so willing and that they could provide this amazing experience, for not only the people we were serving, but for everyone who was involved,” he said. 

Community Lunch is a nonprofit organization that serves wholesome, hot lunches to low-income and homeless people in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood every Tuesday and Friday from noon – 1 p.m.

Callahan said he was introduced to the project when he went to serve lunch with his mother Robin this summer. 

The organization only has one employee — Executive Director Don Jensen — who said he’s thankful for any help he can get, especially now with the economy the way it is. 

The program used to serve about 180 people at each lunch. Today, it is feeding about 230 people at each lunch, Jensen said. 

“I was very excited,” he said. “I thought he had a great idea, a great concept and a lot of enthusiasm.”

To provide people with a Thanksgiving lunch, the Liberty community donated more than $2,741 to Callahan’s project. 

Liberty’s Key Club also helped, by hosting a clothing drive at the school. Students turned out in droves to donate warm clothing that Callahan took to the event. 

“He told me about his Eagle Scout project and what he was doing and I saw it as an opportunity to help out,” said Tori Kraft, Key Club secretary and Callahan’s friend. “This time of year it is hard, because they don’t really have their own possessions to utilize. By us supplying them with even simple clothing, it can brighten their day and probably their year.”

QFC also donated food for the event, like mashed potatoes, butter, a variety of pies and rolls, reducing the amount Callahan had to spend on purchasing food. 

“People that are homeless need a good hot meal and a warm place to stay. They can’t get that on the streets,” Jensen said. “A hot meal is critically important to their survival, but that is competing with critical dollars for rent and health care. 

“We serve a large amount of people who are low income that depend on the meals, so they don’t have to spend those critical dollars on as much food.”  

The organization relies solely on individual donations for survival, so the work Callahan put into the project means a lot, Jensen said.

With the money left over, Callahan was able to purchase $700 worth of sleeping bags and give the remaining $200 to the organization. 

“Given his enthusiasm, I wasn’t surprised. But I was very impressed by the amount of money he raised and the amount of donations he got,” Jensen said. “He’s probably done more in a single meal than anyone else has done before.”

Creating community, though, is what serving lunch is all about, he said.

“We create a community between the volunteers and the guests that come to lunch,” he added. 

“I have more respect now for people in poverty, because they have to work very hard to survive,” said Maddie Kohm, a volunteer and friend of Callahan.

Callahan brought more than 35 volunteers to help him serve lunch. 

“I haven’t done anything real important like this,” said Chris Harlin, another friend of Callahan’s, who came with his mom to volunteer. “I wanted to get involved in some way.”

The volunteers included Lisa Phillips, a former Liberty culinary teacher, who managed the cooking; friends from Liberty, Issaquah, Seattle Prep and Eastside Catholic high schools; family; and family friends from San Francisco. 

“I think for me, and everyone who worked there, we have a whole different view on a side of life we don’t see often,” Callahan said.

Kraft said the experience was one where everyone who participated could walk away with something and she hopes by seeing how much one 17-year-old can accomplish inspires others to make a difference, too. 

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com. 

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