“They love it now that they’re needed again. They’ve been wanting to help but because of COVID, they haven’t been able to get out into the community. They feel proud and happy to be volunteering at MATTER. They’re even trying to recruit other students because they feel it’s such an important thing to do.”  – Lisa Loeding

Lisa Loeding is the Work Experience Coordinator for Transition Plus, a joint program of the Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minnetonka schools that helps prepare young adults with disabilities to live independently, gain meaningful employment, and become active members of the community.

For the last ten years, students in their employment classes have been volunteering at MATTER to help further develop job skills. Whether packing meal kits, moving pallets, breaking down boxes or any number of other tasks, the students apply what they’re learning in the classroom to a real-world setting. Lisa explains how the volunteer work impacts the students.

“They’re learning how to communicate and ask for help from people other than their teachers and job coaches. They’re also learning how to work as a team and listen to directions. They’re improving their problem-solving skills by having to figure out who’s going to do what part of the job. And if something’s not working, they’re learning to talk to each other. All very important skills for future jobs.”

Their volunteer work is also a huge help to MATTER. Currently, two groups from Transition Plus come weekly to pack meal kits and prepare MATTERbox Volunteer Kits. Thanks to their efforts, we’re able to help our partners distribute healthy food to children and families in communities across the country.

Katie Olson, Volunteer and Event Director for MATTER explains how essential it is to have these students volunteering regularly. “Transition Plus is made up of an incredible group of individuals. These students bring so much joy into our volunteer space. We are grateful that MATTER can be a place for them to grow their skills and contribute in an environment where they know that they matter. Every assembled box or carefully placed food item has impacted hundreds of recipients of our MATTERBox projects and beyond!”

One of these dedicated student volunteers is Jessica. Whether working in a group or by herself, Jessica enjoys the variety of tasks she does at MATTER and takes great pride in her work. On a recent afternoon, Jessica was working alone in the back of the warehouse carefully attaching shipping labels to MATTERbox Volunteer Kits. A task many would find tedious, Jessica finds rewarding. “I like doing labels. It’s a big job but I’m very careful.”  

What’s rewarding for Lisa is watching her students learn and develop job skills, gain confidence, grow their leadership abilities, and practice team-building skills, all while making an impact in the community.

“It’s hard to explain how meaningful it is. We’re doing classes where we’re talking about job skills, but they need to get out and put these skills into practice. And they need to know they’re helping. It can’t be a fake set-up. We found that out pretty quick. They don’t take pride in it if it’s not real. Now they go home and tell their parents all about what they did at MATTER. They want to feel wanted and they need to be out contributing to the community. They have a lot to offer.”

Yes, they do! Our thanks to the students from Transition Plus, and all of our amazing volunteers who help MATTER’s mission move forward. Because of your tremendous efforts, more people here and around the world are experiencing more meaningful lives with healthy food, improved health care, amazing educational opportunities and so much more. You all matter!

If you’d like to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, please contact Katie Olson at MATTER.