Wyoming’s first lady donates to LFL Hunger Initiative

Cynthia Sheeley/Lingle Guide Wyoming’s First Lady Jennie Gordon presenting the LFL Student Council with the $5,000 donation to the LFL Hunger Initiative. Jordan Napier (top, left to right), Brenly Shipp, Natalie Speckner, Leah Foster, Halley Fuller, Lainey Grubbs, Kenzie Wilkins, Addison Scott, Erin Estes, the faculty supervisor of the student council, Remington Bremer (bottom, left to right), Sullivan Wilson, Louden Bremer, Wyoming’s First Lady Jennie Gordon, Gage Gibson, Wyatt Sylvester and Nolan Spears. Not pictured is Maddy Saul.

$11,842.81 raised to fight hunger

LINGLE – Imagine being a child and knowing hunger, not the feeling everyone gets between meals, but true debilitating hunger. The kind that overtakes the mind to the point where the person isn’t capable of thinking about anything else. 

The kind that affects a person’s concentration, memory, mood and motor skills. Then imagine being asked to focus on math problems or reading. 

The Lingle-Fort Laramie (LFL) Student Council has been working hard on its journey to ensure that no LFL student has to live through this experience. 

This journey began this last fall.

“We were actually sitting in this lunchroom when the idea came to us,” LFL sophomore and Student Council Vice President Louden Bremer told the Telegram. “They were having a school board meeting in here and were talking about the fact that lunches weren’t free and reduced anymore. They said that some teachers were actually paying out of their own pockets to pay for kids to get lunches because they couldn’t themselves.”

That was when this idea took root in Bremer’s mind.

“I was sitting there with my dad and I had this idea,” Bremer continued. “There’s a ton of fundraisers for sports and other things, but what about a fundraiser for something that everybody needs.”

When the student council first started working on this idea, the goal was to do a small fundraiser to help pay off outstanding student lunch debt.

“When I sat down to think about this project, I remembered imagining this being a small $500 fundraiser,” Bremer told the LFL students and staff. “When in reality, the reason for this small fundraiser, to make kids feel as though they are supported, to make kids feel like they belong in this community and to make sure no kid at LFL goes hungry, is far more powerful than the dollar amount I had in mind.”

However, soon as the ball started rolling, it wasn’t long before it gained momentum. After hearing about the project, LFL librarian Denise Jackson suggested that the students get in touch with Wyoming’s First Lady Jennie Gordon. 

“She put us in touch [with Mrs. Gordon] and our small project took a different path into a much larger trajectory,” Bremer said. “After breaking the ice and getting an understanding of Mrs. Gordon’s shared passion for feeding hungry people, we had a chance to share our project ideas with her. As we were wrapping up the conversation, we were revisiting ideas and she graciously stated that she would be willing to match up to $5,000 in raised proceeds.”

After this meeting, the fundraising for the LFL Hunger Initiative took on a whole new life. In the beginning, the students knew they were fighting an important issue. However, after meeting with Gordon they realized that they could make a monumental difference at their school. With a new $5,000 goal in mind, they were determined to make it happen. 

“We raised money through making dinner for parent/teacher conferences, selling pretzels and Italian sodas and holding fundraisers at winter sports games,” Bremer said. “However, a huge bulk of our donations came from community members who heard our story, related to the cause and simply did not want to see anyone at LFL go hungry.”

The first large fundraiser was held on March 30 in the LFL Elementary cafeteria. This event was a free-will donation BBQ port sandwich feed. This event alone raised a total of $2,064 for the LFL Hunger Initiative.

“I came to realize the power of this generosity when I was actually serving the meal at the parent/teacher conferences, by interacting with elementary kids and their families, seeing people enjoy meals together and watching the actual donations that were given to our “free-will” bucket; it was so humbling,” Bremer continued. 

The total amount raised for the LFL Hunger Initiative, including Gordon’s $5,000 donation, was $11,842.81. This money will be used to help pay off any outstanding student lunch debt, make donations to the backpack program and the after-school program and potentially help reduce the costs of lunches on Fridays for the next school year. In addition, they also plan to sponsor a free meal at the upcoming elementary track and field day.

“Thank you to our collective community; your generosity was so powerful,” Erin Estes, the faculty supervisor of the student council, said. “I have received phone calls, text messages and emails and found the people I interacted with who had heard our story, literally open their wallets on the sport or sought me out to donate funds. I’ve seen generosity before, but I’ve never been so humbled by it.”

“I will tell you, students, you have to know how much you are loved,” Estes continued. “People don’t give money because they have extra cash lying around. People only get money because they’re receiving recognition. People don’t get money because they have a fancy bulletin board. People gave money to this cause because they love you and don’t want any child sitting in this gym to be hungry.”

In celebration of meeting their goal, LFL hosted a special event with Gordon on Tuesday, May 9. For this event, Gordon and her husband, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, generously donated pretzels to be served to all of the LFL students. After helping to serve the snacks, Gordon presented the check to the student council. 

“It is such a treat to meet the student council members that came to Cheyenne to visit with me about the Hunger Initiative and to tell me what they’ve been doing here in Lingle-Fort Laramie,” Gordon told the LFL students and staff. “I am really proud of them and proud of people coming together to care about their neighbors, their peers, their students that are in their courses.” 

Gordon said that according to the data they have received from the State Department of Education, throughout the 23 reporting districts in Wyoming there is over $314,000 of lunch debt. 

“I’d like to take a moment to recognize the student council and LFL, I see how you had a vision of something bigger than yourselves,” Estes said. “You wanted to change our school culture. You wanted kids to be seen when you did it. Your vision was authentic, and you brought the rest of us along with your journey.”

“I’m sharing this story throughout the state with other young people,” Gordon told the Guide. “I think a lot of schools care about their students and their peers, but they just don’t think they can make a difference. To see these folks making a difference in such a short time just shows you anything is possible.”

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