When its base of senior volunteers opted to stay home in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lawton Food Bank called on younger members of the community to help fill their shoes.
Enter the Aguilar family, whose members quickly found their stride helping out at the food bank this spring.
Led by their mother Denise Aguilar, MacArthur High School students Rachel, 17, and Matthew, 15, and their younger brother, Nicholas, 10, a student at Flower Mound Elementary School, have volunteered twice a week at the food bank since April 8.
Every Wednesday and Friday for the past couple months, the Aguilars have put aside homework, house projects and play time to head to the Lawton Food Bank for a few hours to help pack food into boxes for local families in need.
“I wanted to teach the kids the importance of giving back without an expectation of getting anything in return,” Denise explained.
None of the Aguilar children are new to volunteerism. Rachel has been a Girl Scout and both Aguilar boys are Boy Scouts: Nicholas is a Webelos 2 in Pack 4001 and Matthew is a Life Scout in Troop 4176.
In his pursuit of the Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement attainable in the Boy Scouts program, Matthew knew he needed to complete more volunteer hours.
That got the Aguilars in the door, but once Matthew completed his hours, the family didn’t stop there.
“We usually go for two or three hours at a time,” said Rachel, who likes putting her organization skills to good use at the food bank. “But we don’t even notice (the time), it goes by fast. We’re busy working. It feels good to help out.”
As she packs each box with items like pasta, soup, meat, vegetables and fruits, Rachel thinks of the families that might open the boxes in just a few hours.
“When we put in cookies, I always think, ‘Oh, I hope they’ll like this,’” Rachel said. “We’re always thinking about them.”
Each Aguilar admitted there have been days they are not excited to volunteer, but choosing to work together at the food bank has kept them motivated.
“I’ll be honest, at first, I didn’t really want to give up my time,” said Matthew, who enjoys playing soccer. “But then, it kind of hit me in the head, I have plenty of time I wasn’t using well, and if I could use it to help other people get food on their table, then that’s worth it. … I’m more fortunate than most people, and I can really take that for granted.”
For Nicholas, the experience has been a lesson in stepping outside of the comfort zone. The middle schooler encouraged anyone who might be intimidated to volunteer to take a chance, like his family has done.
“You don’t have to be perfect to do it,” Nicholas said. “Just go out and do it and help people.”
The Aguilars plan to continue volunteering at the food bank through the summer.
“I don’t want this to just be a phase or fad, but good and meaningful work,” Denise said. “And I hope to teach (my children) the importance of giving back now in childhood, so that they’ll take that into adulthood and pass it onto their children.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at the Lawton Food Bank, call 353-7994 or go to lawtonfoodbank.org for more information.