Student Group Steps Up for Charity

Key2Finesse, a group of metro Detroit students who care deeply about developing strong leadership skills among their peers, also showed concern for childhood hunger when it chose Gleaners’ BackPack Program as the recipient of its annual Speak the Difference fundraiser.

Started as a partnership of two teenagers who wanted to introduce others to public speaking by developing their confidence, Key2Finesse has grown to encompass students at multiple area schools. The September 22 Speak the Difference event was held at the Costick Center in Farmington Hills.

A total of 400 students, grades 4 through 12, entered art, poetry, essay and speech contests. The 150 speech contestants spoke during the event on subjects of food and hunger. Other student works of art, poetry and prose were on display.

Raising $48,400 for Gleaners’ BackPack Program, this was Key2Finesse’s most successful fundraising event to date.

“We decided to give all our funds to the childrens’ BackPack Program because, as a student-run organization, we know how difficult it can be to focus on an empty stomach or have to wait until after school to eat,” says Aarvi Shah, a Key2Finesse board member and Northville High School senior.

Using 73 schools as distribution hubs, Gleaners’ BackPack Program disperses nutritious food for the weekend to students who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the week, but may go without food on the weekend. Each “pack” provides the equivalent of five meals to students at elementary and middle schools in communities that include Pontiac, Clawson, Warren, Centerline, Livonia, Canton, Hazel Park, Redford and Detroit.

The young people involved in the Speak the Difference fundraiser clearly were driven by Gleaners’ work with food insecure youth. Eight Key2Finesse board members and 35 volunteers, all young people themselves, fundraised before the event to get sponsorships; these efforts raised the bulk of the money. The entrance fees for contestants also were donated to Gleaners.

Key2Finesse members collected 134 pounds of donated food at Speak the Difference and volunteered in Gleaners’ warehouse on September 8.