The Milton-based PB&J Project is preparing to reach a major milestone on Monday, April 13, when the project celebrates its fourth consecutive year of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to feed the homeless. On that day, the 100,000th sandwich will be made, the culmination of a blessed effort that started with one woman who wanted to make a difference.
From 7-8 p.m. every Monday without fail, project founder, and local mom, Jenni Carpenter and her team of volunteers gather at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church to make 475-plus peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in one hour or less. That’s all it takes to do something special for the Tacoma Rescue Mission, where workers hand out the sandwiches every Tuesday morning to those who could really use kindness in their lives.
Of course, none of this would be possible without people volunteering their time and making donations. And the beauty part is that all ages can take part, from little children to grandmas and grandpas. Jessica Connaway brings her seven-year-old son Jake to help make sandwiches.
“We try to come here every Monday night,” she said. “He gets it, and we talk about it. It’s a great learning experience. We always leave with a smile.”
Mike and Rachel Teodoro are consistent volunteers who bring their two little ones, Isabella and Owen, to help out. “It’s nice to have a place where the little guys can go because there aren’t a lot of volunteer opportunities for little kids,” Rachel said. “They like being able to help but so often they’re excluded.”
The PB&J Project enjoys help from a good number of high school students as well, some from Fife High School’s cheerleading squad and sports teams and others from the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) group, Fife High Honor Society, Associated Student Body (ASB), drama club students and more.
Volunteer sandwich-makers are always warmly welcomed, plus it’s fun and only takes about an hour. Those interested can just show up at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, 2306 Milton Way, at 7 p.m. on any Monday.
Past PB&J Project volunteers are invited to come by on April 13 to help celebrate the anniversary, and the door will be open for new volunteers as well.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
With the project going through about 20 pounds of peanut butter and 15 pounds of jelly/jam each week, the biggest need is for donations of these two key ingredients, or the money to buy them. Inexpensive plastic sandwich bags are also needed.
“Without donations, we are stuck,” Carpenter said. “This is how we have made it this far, by donations of product.”
There are numerous ways that the community can help out. One is to place jars of peanut butter and jelly into the PB&J Project collection bin at the Milton Safeway (right next to the in-store Starbucks) or in the bin at the Fife Schools district offices. Another great way to help is to organize workplace donation drives. This is what Jenni’s brother Kevin Carpenter did, as did his fiancé Dianna Jones with her fellow employees who work at Providence Health and Services. Kevin Carpenter works at Paccar Inc. in Renton, manufacturer of light and heavy duty trucks, and he rallied the I.T. department to get behind the PB&J Project.
“We did this for a calendar year and once a quarter we actually made sandwiches in the atrium of our building,” he said. “We set up tables and we made a night’s worth of sandwiches at lunchtime. Once we did it the first time we got a lot more donations because people really identified with what we were doing.”
The project being so near and dear to their hearts, Kevin and Dianna’s wedding plans include supporting the PB&J Project. “For our reception we’re telling people don’t get us anything but peanut butter and jelly. As old as we are, we have everything we need. We don’t need a toaster,” Kevin laughed.
Marjie Madlena of Keller Williams Realty in Puyallup recently contacted Jenni Carpenter via Facebook and offered to collect donations at the office.
“It’s an easy thing for our agents when they’re at the grocery story or Costco. They can pick up jars of peanut butter and jelly and bring it here,” she said. Always glad to help facilitate donations, Jenni Carpenter took bins to Keller Williams and will pick them up when they’re full.