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PB&J for the homeless invites families to volunteer

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Stop by Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Milton on a Monday night and you will find a scene that will remind you of an amped up version of summer afternoons as a child – mom Jenni Carpenter and a dedicated team of volunteers prepping 500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to take to the Tacoma Rescue Mission the next morning.

The group, called PB&J for the Homeless, recently celebrated its five-year anniversary and has made more than 136,000 sandwiches. And they are looking to expand the crew, too. Anyone is welcome to volunteer, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can make for a great family volunteering opportunity.

“It’s for 5-year-olds all the way up to grandmas,” Carpenter said. “It’s a good thing for the family to do now that the kids’ schedules have slowed down. It’s an easy way for a family to be involved, that’s the key. Not only is the job easy for younger people to do, it’s also something they can understand easily, and feel like they are making a difference.”

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The task also gives younger people an understanding of outreach, and a realization that their actions can mean the world to a stranger.

“It’s easy, relatable outreach so it’s easy for me to talk to kids and say, ‘I’m going to take this sandwich down to the mission, and your sandwich is going to be given to someone who doesn’t have a fridge or oven or anything to cook with, so you’re helping feed people who otherwise wouldn’t have food with them.’ It’s educational and fun to tell them that the 80 sandwiches you just made will go to 80 people to fill their hungry stomachs.’ It’s an easy way for kids to feel like they did something good,” Carpenter said.

During the school year, students from the district get volunteer hours by working with Carpenter and her team, but the numbers dwindle during the summer.

“We make almost 500 sandwiches each Monday. It takes about an hour if we have 15 people, generally. It’s after people have eaten dinner and it’s a time of the evening where it’s pretty easy to dedicate some time to. It’s something to do with your family, and it seems to work out pretty good, “ Carpenter said.

The project started with Carpenter’s son’s baseball team and she was convinced to keep it going, although she never thought it would last as long as it did.

“It’s kind of crazy that we were only going to do this for my son’s baseball team then we thought maybe we can keep it going until we hit the five year mark,” Carpenter said

Making 500 sandwiches a week is not a cheap endeavor, and the project is always looking for donations. The organization recently set up a GoFundMe page, which can be found at www.gofundme.com/2c8dxa4.

“It’ not expensive, but it is valuable,” Carpenter said.

If you want to help more directly, Carpenter is always looking for donations of seedless jelly and creamy peanut butter, as well as Ziplock bags to hold the completed sandwiches. Carpenter can be contacted through the GoFundMe page and is willing to pick up donated supplies.

“We go through about 20 pounds of peanut butter a week , about 15 pounds of jelly and 500 Ziplock bags,” she said.

If you are interested in volunteering, the group meets every Monday from 7-8 p.m. at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, at 2306 Milton Way.

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