One local high school student has devoted time not only to helping others in need, but also helping those who help others in need.
Elizabeth Kellen, a junior at Briar Woods High School and an Ambassador Girl Scout from Troop 3580, has taken on a series of projects to help Loudoun Interfaith Relief and its volunteers better feed the county’s hungry. In exchange, Elizabeth hopes to earn her Girl Scouts of America Gold Award.
Elizabeth said she attributes her desire to help to lessons she learned while living in Canada.
“I grew up here in Loudoun County, but my family and I moved to Canada for two years when I was in seventh and eighth grade,” Kellen said. “While we were living there, we started volunteering at a soup kitchen and really enjoyed it. When we moved back, my mom found out about LIR and started volunteering there a few times each month.”
After enjoying her volunteering experience in Canada so much, she said she immediately thought of Loudoun Interfaith Relief. Kellen worked with David Dwyer, LIR’s director of operation, to find a project that would help the organization, and finally zeroed in on one that would help the volunteers.
“Volunteers and staff at LIR lift hundreds of pounds of food each day whether they are unloading food donations or packaging orders for the clients,” she said. “This much lifting puts stress on the volunteers' backs.”
So Kellen built two-tiered carts that volunteers can use to haul the groceries, “fabulous rolling carts,” as Dwyer called them.
“They’re very helpful, especially to some of our long-term volunteers,” he said, explaining some LIR volunteers have been helping out for more than 20 years. “To have these carts to put the heavy food into to roll and distribute is really an incredible help. They’ve been used in every aspect of the job.”
Dwyer said after Kellen made the first cart, “they were just the right height, the right size,” so she made more and then continued finding ways to help.
“She made one, and then three more, and also another place to distribute out our front door, which is real helpful,” he said.
Dwyer was referring to a second exchange area that allows two orders to be transferred at once. The idea had always been to convert an existing door into a Dutch door with desktop, but that project was never completed.
“My solution was to create a rollaway desk that they could use in place of a Dutch door,” Kellen explained. When not in use, the desk can be rolled away. “While raising awareness of the hungry in our community is important, I also wanted to do something to help the staff and volunteers so that they can better serve those in need.”
But Kellen still wanted to help out with donations, too. She said few realize that demand is high at the food pantry in Loudoun. While many residents make among the highest salaries in the country, many others struggle. To raise awareness, Kellen has organized a cereal drive at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Ashburn during mass hours Sept. 15-16.
What: Cereal Drive to help Loudoun Interfaith Relief and those in need
When: 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15
7:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16
Where: St. Theresa Catholic Church
Anyone is welcome to drop by and make a donation. Kellen also pointed out that Loudoun Interfaith Relief takes food all year during business hours.