MILLSTONE — Kyle Sikkema, an eighth-grade student at the Millstone Township Middle School, is spearheading his second annual paper products drive from May 25 through June 18.
The drive will benefit the Feed All God’s Children lunch program, which is based at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Freehold Borough.
After Kyle met Jim Benedict, who founded the lunch program, the young man was inspired to want to help contribute in a meaningful way. Kyle realized the lunch program has a need for paper goods, and understood that he could help in that manner.
Kyle is a member of the National Junior Honor Society at school. He enlisted the assistance of his fellow members to help promote the drive by making posters to hang up in the school.
His goal this year is to collect 800 paper items. Last year, he collected about 400 items and was gratified to learn that his contribution enabled the lunch program to replenish its stock of paper goods.
“Having the support of my school and local businesses helps make this paper drive successful,” Kyle said. “I think it helps in getting the word out around Millstone that there is a need in the community.”
The young man said he believes in the mission of Feed All God’s Children.
Benedict said he founded the program 12 years ago to provide a nutritious, hot meal to anyone who needs one. Volunteers from St. Peter’s serve about 40,000 meals each year. Between 150 and 200 guests come for lunch each week for the program, which is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Benedict said he was moved by Kyle’s sincere effort to help people.
“That is a rare quality for someone who is a teenager,” he said. “I thought it was wonderful that Kyle, a young person, would put his efforts into helping other people who need it. The need is growing, while donations have dropped off.”
Hunger is invisible, but it is a growing problem primarily because of current economic conditions that force some people to make choices between paying rent, buying medications or purchasing food, according to Benedict.
“Guests come into our dining room to sit down and enjoy their meal with fellowship in a clean environment,” Benedict said. “The personal contact and friendly conversation are just as important as the need to ease the pain of hunger.”
Kyle’s mom, Tori, is proud of her son and said she was impressed with Benedict’s reaction to Kyle.
“Jim has always been very appreciative of Kyle’s efforts and thinks it is pretty amazing that a child his age wants to conduct a paper drive,” she said. “Jim and his wife have spent their lives supporting others, and appreciate when they are supported. Jim’s lunch program received no financial support from the government. It is fully funded by donations.”
Kyle said he is learning important life lessons through his association with Feed All God’s Children.
“I learned the less fortunate are treated with much more disrespect than I ever knew,” he said. “Jim made a comment that really hit home for me. He said, ‘There shouldn’t only be a season of giving during Christmas. People in need eat all year.’ ”
Kyle’s brother Grant, 11, helps out by encouraging his classmates to donate paper towels and toilet paper to the drive.
Donation bins for the paper products drive will be in place at the Millstone Township Middle School; the Millstone Township Elementary School; Vesuvio’s Pizzeria and Family Restaurant, 221 Millstone Road; and Arriba Noir Chocolatier, 480 Route 33 West.