Joey’s Food Locker has 5,000 reasons to be thankful today – starting with NUSD Trustee Lisa Kaplan, Facebook, Lee Xiong, and Lyon Real Estate.
Five thousand is the sum that Natomas High School’s food closet will receive as a grant from Lyon Cares Foundation, a charitable fund created from the generosity of Lyon Real Estate agents, who contribute a portion of their commissions to the cause.
It’s the largest grant Joey’s Food Locker ever has won, providing a big boost to local residents struggling to put food on their table.
“It makes us feel good, any time we can help those less fortunate,” Lee Xiong said of the decision to help NUSD’s food locker, which recently expanded its distribution of groceries from once to twice a month.
Kaplan said the donation represents what the Natomas community is all about, stepping up when necessary, helping those in need. “I love this community – it’s about the greater good,” she said. “Truly, thanks go out to all the Lyon agents.”
But we’re getting ahead of the story, so let’s start at the beginning, a personal post on social media.
Kaplan spotted the following post last month on the Facebook page of Lyon’s Lee Xiong that pointed out Lyon Cares Foundation was accepting nominations for local community grants to worthy charities.
“My Natomas community, it is time for us to nominate a local non-profit to receive a $5,000 grant from the Lyon Cares Foundation. Let me know which organization is near and dear to your heart. Thank you.”
Kaplan jumped at the opportunity, suggesting Joey’s Food Locker, which provides bags of groceries to hundreds of local residents each month and is run by Natomas High School teacher Joel Schwieger and his class of adult special-needs students.
Xiong, the parent of three NUSD students, said that she and other Lyon staff were impressed by the nomination. “When we heard there’s actually this need here, it touched our hearts,” she said.
The rest is history. Lyon’s announced the grant winner recently and will present a check in the near future.
Because Joey’s Food Locker can purchase groceries at a reduced rate, Schwieger said the $5,000 grant will be used to buy essential food items that would retail at many times that amount. “It will go an extremely long way in feeding folks,” he said.
Joey’s Food Locker is based on a simple idea: Learning by helping others. It distributes groceries from 4-5:30 p.m. every third and fourth Friday of the month.
Not only do hungry residents receive food from the locker, adult special-need students from Schwieger’s Adult Transition Program get to practice independent living skills that could help them land jobs someday: They greet and serve families, stock shelves, bag groceries, check expiration dates, and practice teamwork and meeting obligations.
Kaplan said the food locker also contributes to the academic success of families receiving groceries, since healthy students make better learners. “It’s a full circle,” she said. “If we make sure Joey’s Food Locker can serve our families, it’s good for those students, too, and it’s good for their learning.” Everybody wins.