Lauren Wigton, an Indy transplant from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, works for the Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity as a Construction Superintendent. In her spare time, she is also a fitness instructor who teaches both spin and boxing. She loves being outdoors and hiking. Lauren began volunteering with The Patachou Foundation two years ago. She is now a lead volunteer at IPS 58 and recently joined the fundraising committee. She is passionate about educating children on what it means to live a healthy lifestyle and loves learning from the children that she serves as well. We are so grateful for Lauren’s willingness to go above and beyond for the kids we serve. Thank you, Lauren!
How did you first hear about The Patachou Foundation?
I was an AmeriCorp member when I graduated college. I moved to Indy, joined the AmeriCorp program, which is kind of like a domestic version of the Peace Corp. I was only working maybe about 30 hours a week so I had a lot of free time and I was trying to figure out what ways can I get involved in my community. I was kind of looking around on causes that I wanted to get involved. I found The Patachou Foundation and thought what they were doing was incredibly inspiring. AmeriCorp was the real reason I was able to find the time to make it a priority.
How long have you been volunteering and what has made it so fulfilling to you?
I was a volunteer for a year and then I became a lead volunteer the following year so I’ve been with them for about two years. Then I joined the fundraising committee in the past six months. The most fulfilling thing is when I’m actually there and the food’s served and I’m just sitting at a table with a couple kids talking about their day. The food is obviously the most important part but I think the relationships that we create and just having someone to listen to these kids and talk about class or the things they’re realizing they’re passionate about. We can encourage them to do that cause you never know what someone’s home life is like. But if you can be one of those small things that makes their day great I think that’s incredibly rewarding.
Do you have a favorite memory or story about your volunteer experience?
A4: The school I go to is IPS 58 and they have a Running Club. I’m a big runner; I like doing races and stuff. So, the kids are coming in and they’re all super sweaty. And getting to talk to those kids about running I really love. I know when I was a kid I was like, “Oh running — that’s stupid, that’s boring.” So talking to these kids who are like, “We ran all over the place. We saw so many cool things!” and I’m just like, man, that’s awesome. Seeing kids get super passionate about athleticism and other aspects about healthy lives I think is just so cool. There’s been a lot of times where those kids have come back from a run and just…the smile on their face is awesome.
Can you tell me a little bit about IPS 58, the school where you volunteer?
IPS 58 is where I was the lead this past year. I would go every other Thursday. It’s just a great school. Ms. Christina is the teacher who leads that afterschool program and she inspires me. She’s a young woman in the IPS system who fosters respect at a young age. It’s awesome…she’s very inspiring. And those kids are a fantastic…a lot of energy! They have great senses of humor and they’re all really bright and incredibly sweet. I think they all have a fantastic future ahead because of the opportunities that all those kids are taking advantage of. I think they’re all go-getters.
What would you tell people who may be considering volunteering for TPF but aren’t sure? What advice would you give them before volunteering?
If you’re questioning it, just do it. What’s great about this volunteer opportunity is that it’s on your schedule. What I really like is that they don’t say, “Hey, you gotta put in X amount of hours every month or you’ll be booted from the volunteer portal.” Other places that do that make it almost stressful. I am always so incredibly appreciated and respected by Patachou. Everyone understands when things happen in life that keep you, maybe, from going. I really do appreciate that about Patachou.
And it’s not that long — it’s like, what, an hour? That’s a pretty great way to give back to your community in a pretty big way. You’re impacting a lot of lives in one hour once a week or once every other week. You’re doing something that’s really important. You can feel it and you understand why it’s important. Just to see the kids — it makes you feel good. I see no downside. There are no negative aspects of going and volunteering for Patachou. It’s a win-win for everybody. To see kids get excited about food is pretty cool. They’re going to grow up to be such curious adults and I think that’s awesome.
Why do you think The Patachou Foundation’s mission is important for our community as a whole?
Access to healthy food is just so important, I think, for everyone. The knowledge that is behind that is really hard to find or just be exposed to it. Where I build for Habitat, we’re building in the center of Marion County and when I drive to my job site there are no grocery stores. If you don’t have that knowledge base helping you grow and learn what is and is not healthy — I think educational aspect is really the key to it all. It’s kind of similar to what we do at Habitat – we have an educational program. So, we’re giving our homeowners a leg up, trying to make sure they’re successful homeowners by giving them finance courses and drywall painting classes.
I kind of see Patachou doing a similar thing but for being successful and healthy humans in the home that is your body. So how you take care of your home, how you take care of your body. That outside influence from people who really care for you and want to see you succeed by educating you is what’s most important. It’s that educational piece, I think, that’s great.
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