Choice to home school sparks family to volunteer monthly

Wauketa Thelen, a longtime home school teacher and math instructor at Baker College, felt her home schooling instruction needed a practical element that went beyond textbooks. Growing up in Detroit, Wauketa knew that hunger was a reality for some kids and their families. She didn’t want her children, Coen and KJ, to lack perspective on the real issues people around them struggled with.

“Hunger is a real problem, be it in the city or suburbs,” Wauketa said recently. “I felt we needed to appreciate what we have. I started doing research [related to the issue of hunger] and found Gleaners,” she said.

Wauketa was drawn to Gleaners’ mission to solve hunger and nourish communities and she sought out Gleaners’ many volunteer opportunities. To broaden her children’s perspectives and offer a different facet to their education, Wauketa added a monthly trip to the Gleaners Pontiac Distribution Center to Coen and KJ’s home school curriculum.

“The kids initially didn’t want to go,” Wauketa reflected. “One time they were packing back packs for other kids,” she recalled. “They were saddened and appalled that kids their age didn’t have food to eat like they did. I think that trip sealed the deal for them. Now, they love when we go do our work at Gleaners,” she said.

Their monthly Gleaners trips started spring of last year and they’ve become a regular topic of discussion within the family. Just as Wauketa had hoped, the practical lessons seem to be taking hold.

“The kids don’t want to be wasteful (of food),” Wauketa said. “Our trips to Gleaners have been eye-opening experiences and the kids realize now that hunger is very, very real,” she added.

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