A Superior teen focused on feeding others earned a regional award for her work in Douglas County.
Veronica Acurero, 13, launched an Every Meal site at the Superior-Douglas County Family YMCA this spring. The pairing of the two nonprofits distributes about 3,000 pounds of food in the county each month.
Acurero was recognized with a Leadership Award of Excellence at the Upper Midwest Alliance of YMCAs’ fall conference. Because the Superior Middle School eighth grader wasn’t able to attend the event last week, the award came to her. It was presented Wednesday, Oct. 20, in front of the Superior-Douglas County Family YMCA Board.
Chief volunteer officer Lisa Radtke said she was impressed that Acurero was thinking about ways to positively affect the lives of others at such a young age.
“You’re an inspiration, and I hope you continue to push yourself and push others,” Radtke said.
Child care director Kim Martin has known Acurero since she was about 6 years old through latchkey and camp programs.
“And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what Y programs do,” she said, through character development and the teaching of its four core values.
Acurero thanked the YMCA for the support she received in bringing Every Meal to Douglas County.
“I was taught to find and build up others, especially for those who cannot strengthen themselves. So that’s what I did,” Acurero said. “And it’s so empowering to think about how a group of people want something, we go and get it, we achieve.”
It’s all about teamwork and togetherness, love and strength, she said.
Acurero learned about Every Meal, a Roseville-based nonprofit organization that seeks to bridge food gaps for children, by eavesdropping on her father and one of his friends. The first food bags were distributed Feb. 27 at the YMCA. The program has slowly grown, with staff retooling a multi-purpose room at the YMCA into a food storage area. Wednesday, it was filled with boxes waiting to be opened.
The YMCA distributes bags of food in the lobby of 9 N. 21st St. from 4-6 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Martin is preparing a second shipment of food for the Maple School District, which offers bags of Every Meal staples daily at Northwestern Middle School. Bags have also gone to Harbor House Crisis Shelters, where they can be distributed to families leaving the shelter.
Martin drives out to offer food bags to families at Bayview Courts (4-6 p.m. Tuesday), Park Place (4-6 p.m. Thursday) and Catlin Courts (10 a.m. to noon Saturday) every other week. It’s a way for her to bridge the transportation gap that would keep people from receiving food.
“For me, personally, it has been a real blessing to be able to go out into the community and to meet people and to hear their stories and kind of just be a part of that,” Martin said.
There are no requirements to receive the food. Anyone can stop by and take up to two bags per family. Each food bag provides a supply of staples, from rice and canned fruit to tuna and pasta. The bags come in five different varieties, including one targeted toward Hispanic tastes, one containing East Asian foods and one that is pork free.
“It lets people also just try new things,” Acurero said.
Martin recalled one woman who gave the purple East Asian bag a try and came back looking for another.
“She said ‘You gave me the purple one last time I was here, and I didn’t know if I would like it. I love the coconut milk. So can I have a purple?’” Martin recalled.
The YMCA is seeking additional volunteers and more sites to grow the program in the county.
“That volunteer piece is vital. It’s just me right now,” Martin said.
For more information, contact the Superior-Douglas County YMCA, 715-392-5611.