February 20, 2018
Tara's volunteer service at Victoria Terrace Public School started as an Educational Assistant in a Grade 1 and 2 class when her two children were attending the school; she then became a Food & Friends Program Coordinator and has now been involved with the school's student nutrition program for five years. She also sits on the parent council and has organized several fundraisers for the school. Victoria Terrace holds a special place in Tara's heart as she herself attended the school; she considers Victoria Terrace a second home and the students there as her "children."
Tara coordinates both the snack and the lunch program, creating menus and picking-up groceries on a weekly basis. She notes there are challenges, such as meeting dietary guidelines restrictions, but she faces it all with a smile and a dose of creativity, coming up with fun and tasty alternatives for the kids when certain foods, such as processed meats, are cut from the program.
Tara explains that every student in the school is offered the morning snack but that lunch items are reserved for those who need them most. About 220 students access the program every day. The students who use the lunch program pick-up the food and return the containers when they're finished. Tara is supported by a group of students who help serve the food and bring back unused items. The food program not only provides nutritious food to students but also provides them with the opportunity to try new foods.
In June of 2017, Tara was recognized with the Everyday Hero Award by the Upper Grand District School Board - a true measure of her value and contribution. She is a very active volunteer who attends the Children's Foundation appreciation events as well as networking meetings with the Food & Friends Program several times a year.
Tara's volunteering has inspired both of her children to volunteer as well. Her daughter has completed over 200 hours of volunteer work, far exceeding her mandatory 40 hours of community service for high school graduation. Her son also helps out with the snack and lunch program when he can, even though he no longer attends the school. Tara stresses that the school is her "happy place;" the positive feedback from the students she supports on a daily basis makes her feel valued and appreciated.
Through her dedication and commitment, Tara has changed the lives of children offering healthy nutrition, increased self-worth, a sense of responsibility and opportunities to help others. Tara looks at everything with optimism and grace and has become a strong role model for the students and staff at Vitoria Terrace and a highly-valued volunteer and community member!