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Lana M. Kruse
Clinical Nutrition Manager, St. Joseph’s Hospital West, Lake St. Louis, MO
Lana Kruse is treasurer and a member of the Board for First Step Back Home, a homeless ministry she co-founded with her husband Paul. In 2005 she recognized that while there existed support for homeless women and children in her community, it was overburdened and did not address the needs of homeless men. The formation of First Step Back Home was designed to fill that void by providing temporary lodging in a local hotel. It later expanded to include the distribution of survival backpacks filled with a two-day supply of nutritious, non-perishable food items and utensils. In 2007 Lana established an evening hot meal program every Saturday, which quickly expanded to seven days a week. Since its founding, Lana has trained 66 volunteer groups committed to serving this population. Her work has been infectious, inspiring support for her survival backpack program from colleagues at work and local businesses.
To date, more than $735,000 has been donated to First Step Back Home covering lodging, food, gas, phone cards, medicine and more. It has served more than 4,000 men, women and children. Lana’s example and leadership rallied more than 600 volunteers who have logged nearly 10,000 hours for the hot meal ministry. In 2011 Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder presented Lana and Paul with the Senior Service Award and in that same year, Lana received the Jane Crider Volunteer Leadership Award for advancing health care issues in the community.
Lana believes that, “There's no way we can make a difference to help the homeless find work and achieve self-sufficiency if we can't help with the basic need of hunger relief first.”
Diana L. Messett
Senior IS&T Acquisition Manager, Corporate IS&T, Gaithersburg, MD
On a daily basis, Diana Messett demonstrates how innovation and creativity can be driving forces for business growth and community support alike. Since 2007, her leadership in helping fight hunger in Montgomery County has increased volunteer participation, food donations and Smart Sacks distributions—a local backpack food program for children. As a direct result of Diana’s work, 160,600 kid-friendly nutritious food items were donated to Manna Food Center during Sodexo Servathon events, and 21,000 backpacks have gone to students who might otherwise go hungry on weekends and during school breaks. Through sheer will and ingenuity, Diana managed to sustain growth in the amount of kid-friendly food products collected for Manna Food Center over multiple years, including a 73% jump in donations as a result of engaging the competitive spirit of fellow employees. Thanks in part to her efforts, Manna Food Center’s Smart Sacks program and its volunteers received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, recognition created by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, honoring Americans who inspire others to engage in volunteer service. She also received recognition for her leadership with Smart Sacks by Maryland’s Montgomery County Executive. Dedicating both time and money, Diana has logged more than 1,700 volunteer hours and inspired more than 50 Sodexo employees and vendor partners to support the local community by reaching children in need.
Diana likes to point out that, “The children who are hungry and in need of our help are not always readily visible but often just a stone’s throw away. Our efforts cannot stop until every child is able to eat on a regular basis.” View Diana's story.
Karen A. Peloquin
Executive Chef Manager, Sunovion 158, Marlborough, MA
Karen Peloquin understands that it is not always enough to serve food to those in need – sometimes they too want a chance to serve and do their part. She provides that opportunity through her church and her work of more than four years at the New England Dream Center. While the Boston area center feeds hot meals to about 200 homeless and disadvantaged, Karen coordinates the effort so that once the food is prepared, cooks, volunteers, servers and patrons all dine together and socialize as one. In the last two years alone, more than 20,000 meals have been provided in this “self-service” fashion thanks to Karen, with participants feeling like they too are giving back just by doing something as easy as serving coffee to fellow patrons and volunteers. She has been called a “gift” and a “gem” by fellow community leaders who know her work, and her friends and volunteers add that “she does not do volunteer work to make herself feel good or to better her standing… she truly loves the people with whom she is working.”
Karen often observes, “The real shame of hunger is that we waste far too much food for so many to go hungry – in Worcester or anywhere in our country.”
Phyll Dondis Ribakoff, RD, LDN
Associate Director, Sodexo Distance Education Dietetic Internship, Weston, MA
Phyll Ribakoff began actively volunteering for Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters in 2005. Since that time she has taught 17 six-part classes based on various Cooking Matters curricula. Each class series is led by a nutritionist or dietitian and chef providing nutrition education and hands-on cooking lessons. At the end of each class, participants leave with a supply of groceries including items used in the day’s cooking demo. Phyll’s work is featured in several training videos used nationally to instruct other dietitians and chefs who volunteer for Cooking Matters. She has dedicated more than 200 hours to teaching over 150 families how to eat better for less by equipping them with a full complement of practical knowledge and skills.
In addition to her work as a volunteer for Cooking Matters Phyll served on its advisory board, and next year will be inducted into the Share Our Strength Hall of Fame as the first registered dietitian to teach at least 15 series of classes. In her professional capacity, Phyll also coordinates a required STOP Hunger activity for her 40 Sodexo Dietetic Interns, engaging them to raise money, collect food and educate audiences about the issue of hunger.
Phyll explains, “I grew up in a home where volunteering and giving were expected and embraced. It is important for me also to instill in future registered dietitians that they have a professional responsibility to prevent hunger and food insecurity.”
Cynthia L. Steele
Marketing Manager, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
As someone who lives the mantra “One can do some, many can do more,” Cynthia Steele is widely recognized as the crisis go-to resource in matters of hunger and homelessness in her community. She began her volunteer work five years ago collecting and delivering food and supplies every month to the Homeless Shelter of Columbia. Not one to let budget challenges impede service, Cynthia rallied resources and personal friends to ensure that 250 homeless men and women had food each week even through funding shortfalls – an effort that resulted in 18,500 meals served over the last three years.
Since her time with Sodexo, Cynthia’s other impressive achievements have included: advocating for a food bank on the University of South Carolina campus, piloting it this spring and engaging the student body in a major food drive to fill that food bank. She was also instrumental in collecting food and raising $15,000 in funds for Harvest Hope Food Bank of Columbia, which serves 20 counties in South Carolina. In addition, Cynthia assists with efforts for the Second Servings program, which rescues surplus food, and provides nearly 32,000 meals to local residents in need at seven different shelters for the homeless. Cynthia has also been recognized for her work by the United Way with an award for her community service.
Motivated volunteers often hear Cynthia say, “Because of our efforts, many more South Carolina families will have the comfort of knowing that there WILL be a next meal.”