Grace Thayer, a Campus Compact AmeriCorps member at Wheaton College, is creating capacity building systems that assist families in Attleboro, Massachusetts experiencing food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of Grace’s major accomplishments during her service year has been launching the Wheaton College Food Pantry, which is open to everyone in the Wheaton community. The food pantry allows students to have access to nutritious food throughout the year, including during school breaks. She manages and recruits volunteers for the food pantry and plans and hosts events to promote food access on campus. In addition to launching the food pantry, Grace also helped start the C.A.R.E.S Program which provides free respite care for low-income, adult Alzheimer’s patients. She helped name the program and secured national grant funding for it through AARP.
Throughout her service year, Grace has focused on increasing the sustainability of the projects she’s worked on through demographic collection, asset mapping, and securing grants. Securing grant funding will ensure that the projects she’s worked on will continue running for many years to come. Grace also created a sustainability guide to ensure that the following VISTA member has a roadmap of how to run each project. In reflecting on the importance of sustainability, Grace stated, “Sustainability is one of the most important aspects of programming, as we want to ensure that we are making a long-lasting impact in the community.”
Grace hopes that the Wheaton College Food Pantry will continue operating and will be able to support more students on campus. “I would love for the pantry to become even more involved with student groups so that every student on campus knows and feels that they are supported,” Grace shares. She hopes that every project she’s worked on is sustainable enough to continue to grow and that the visibility of the food pantry increases throughout the community. Grace will be enrolling as a second-year VISTA at Wheaton College and looks forward to continuing to develop these projects in the coming year.