From Our Executive Director
Update for May
As the month of May approaches, we are preparing for our fourth monthly delivery of food - after successful deliveries in February, March, and April. There is still no indication from the Honduran Education Ministry that schools will re-open to in-person instruction any time soon, so our "Plan B" delivery method remains in place for now. Here's what we've learned so far:
- This method of delivery is costing us more financially than our normal food deliveries cost. It's difficult to quantify the reason for this - especially considering that we're only delivering rice, beans, and corn rather than our full menu of items - but suffice it to say that calculating the delivery amounts for a month's supply of food for more than 2,000 children to take home, versus delivering food to be prepared and served on-site one lunch at a time, is simply a different model. As we say in the U.S., it's "apples and oranges", so to speak.
- Overall enrollment at the 46 schools in the L4L program has risen by nearly 100 students since February. Because we are asking Principals to provide us with formal enrollment rosters in order to calculate food delivery quantities, families are enrolling their children now at increasing rates even though schools remain closed ... which means our food deliveries are reaching more and more kids ... just what we hoped would happen.
- The families in our L4L school communities are incredibly grateful to you, our sponsors and donors, for making it possible for them to feed their kids while schools have been closed for more than a year now.
- Principals and Teachers at the schools remain amazingly committed to helping us with this alternate delivery plan. They truly have a love for their students and will do anything to help them.
In late 2020, it became clear that the Honduran Education Ministry would not be allowing the resumption of face-to-face instruction in public schools in February 2021 as we had been expecting. While this came as a huge disappointment to us at Lunches for Learning, we decided then that this has gone on long enough. We decided we needed to do something on behalf of the kids. The time had come for us to take action, and now we have done exactly that.
Schools were shut-down in March 2020 due to COVID-19, which took away our platform for delivering daily school lunches. Throughout 2020, we struggled with the concept of completing large-scale food distribution to so many people in such a wide geographic area while COVID-19 restrictions were in place.
Quite honestly ... one of our primary concerns was the ability to deliver food in a consistent and efficient manner in such a massive undertaking - and one which would've been so dramatically different from what we're really good at. Without the structure of the school-day model as our distribution platform, we felt that we needed to provide enough food for entire families in each school community - not just the students of the schools - which would dramatically increase our costs. We would be providing food at home for as many as 10,000 people when you include the additional family members in all 46 school communities. The cost of that type of expansive food delivery program would likely jeopardize L4L's ability to continue the program long-term ... and we plan to be with these kids for a very long time. We decided we needed to wait-out the school shutdown and use that time to devise a plan to immediately resume the program in February 2021 when we could resume providing lunches at school.
What changed? Good question.
Throughout the 2020 shutdown in Honduras, we always had February 2021 penciled-in as the pot-of-gold at the end of the rainbow. We had a goal to shoot for. We hated that the kids were going without food for so many months, but there was always the promise of an end in sight. So we set our sights on a Rapid Response plan for February - a way to immediately re-supply all schools with food just as soon as they were allowed to re-open. Schools still have not been allowed to open ... and the Honduran Education Minisry cannot guarantee when schools might resume at all in 2021.
Whenever schools are allowed to reopen for in-person classroom instruction, L4L will immediately resume our normal operations. In the meantime, while schools will remain closed, the kids in the L4L program are desperate again ... as they were before L4L was introduced in their communities. That is why we have decided enough is enough.
Beginning in early February, we launched an effort designed at providing food to the kids in a very different way:
The key difference now, as compared to the plans we considered in 2020, is that the school Principals have now all agreed to assist by managing the food distribution process at their schools. They know their students and the extended families, so they can much more easily ensure that food goes to the students who will be enrolled for 2021. When COVID-19 was still new and we were all learning about the implications of the virus, most of the school Principals in L4L-sponsored schools were not comfortable being on-site at school to manage this process. All that has changed now, and that is why this plan will work.
- Deliveries of rice, beans, and corn are coordinated with each school Principal in the L4L program. Principals are being asked to manage these efforts - in partnership with L4L staff - on-site at their schools.
- The rice, beans, and corn are packaged into the equivalent of a one month's supply - in quantities consistent with the food amounts L4L normally provides during the school year. Children take these packages of food to their homes.
- To help reduce the size of groups gathering, in keeping with COVID-19 guidelines in Honduras, food packages are distributed to the mothers of the children at each school - rather than to each individual student himself/herself.
- Once our program resumes normal operations, we will again provide milk, vitamins, cooking oil, and sugar along with the rice, beans, and corn as we typically do during the school year.
We sincerely hope that this alternate solution is only needed for 2-3 months, but we enter this phase of our history not knowing how long we will need to maintain this more resource-intensive version of the L4L program. In terms of L4L history, this is a radical shift in the way we administer the L4L program, but we are responding to desperate conditions in the only way we can - given the circumstances around schools continuing to be closed to in-person instruction. Providing handouts is contrary to the fundamental L4L philosophy of empowering kids to remain in school ... but at this point, we feel that we have no choice.
As an L4L supporter, if you have any questions about this at all, please contact me. I would be grateful for the chance to discuss this with you further.
In the immortal words of our esteemed founder, Ron Hicks ... "siempre su amigo"!
Have you ever considered what it would be like if you had to walk for an hour each morning across a rugged mountain road just to attend school for the day, only to be faced with having to walk another hour at the end of the school day to get home? Or what if you had to send your kids to school on an empty stomach each morning because you had no food? For the kids of rural Honduras, this is their reality every day. Honduras is among the poorest nations in the world with much of the population living below the poverty level, earning less than $2 per day. However, statistics show that a child who earns at least a sixth grade education has hope for breaking the cycle of poverty because he or she will learn basic reading, writing and math skills that open future doors. This is the foundation of the Lunches for Learning mission.
Lunches for Learning exists to break the cycle of poverty in rural Honduras by providing a healthy lunch to school children every school day at their school; thereby allowing these children to stay in school so they can complete their education and enter the workforce as literate individuals.
If you would like to make a difference in the lives of these kids in Honduras, we invite you to consider becoming a school sponsor. Our School Sponsorship page will explain more, or you can contact us to discuss what a school sponsorship involves - including opportunities to support a specific group of kids and develop long-term, on-going partnerships with the community you - or your organization - support as a sponsor.
Lunches for Learning History
Sometimes, significant decisions are made when they are least expected. In 2004, Ron Hicks was presented with an extraordinary choice while on a trip through central America. Waiting for a border crossing between El Salvador and Honduras, Ron experienced first-hand a multitude of poverty stricken children. One little nine-year-old girl happened to make eye contact while begging for money and she became the catalyst of a series of choices made by Ron. It was a moment that created a movement.
Times were hard for this child, just as they continue to be for many children in this poor, rural region in Southern Honduras. When you come from a household of hungry people, you have to beg, and this little girl was begging at the border crossing into El Salvador for her and her family. There is not a lot of hope in this environment. Most people who travel this road are in a hurry to get somewhere else. Many become hardened by the poverty and suffering. Ron Hicks passed through, gave her a couple of coins, and moved on. But Ron was haunted by her memory.
Ron returned home to the United States, still struggling with his choice to turn this little girl away. He began to think about what to do and concluded that his only choice was to return to Honduras, cross the border in the same location and try to find this little girl. He didn't know yet how he could help her, but he was determined to find a way.
After a great deal of effort, he returned to Honduras and located this child and her family living in a small shack in El Amatillo, Honduras. This little girl's name is Anabel (pronounced "Annabelle"). He spoke with the family and Anabel herself through an interpreter and soon learned the families in this rural town were also faced with a choice – the choice to either send their children to the streets, begging for money so they could buy food, or to send them to school for an education and hope for the future, but with an empty stomach because there was no money to feed them.
With a sense of optimism and the help of Messiah Lutheran Church in Montgomery, Alabama, Lunches for Learning began its mission to break the cycle of poverty in this forgotten part of Central America. Lunches for Learning helped Anabel find a way back to elementary school by providing her and her classmates a nourishing lunch at school. From this small act of encouragement, hope has grown.
Anabel's school was the first school to receive lunches through the Lunches for Learning program. Anabel, like hundreds of students since, completed her education - with the help of Lunches for Learning - and graduated. She is now an independent young woman, living and working in her home town of El Amatillo with a bright future ahead of her.
The Lunches for Learning program was created in 2004 and incorporated in 2005 as a 501(c)(3) and with it, a tradition of hope, empowerment and dignity arose. Today more than 2,000 children are fed a nutritious lunch at 46 rural kindergarten, elementary and middle schools in the Valle District of Honduras. With the strength of God and the support of strategic partners, Lunches for Learning hopes to continue breaking the cycle of poverty in rural Honduras.
Remembering Our Founder
It is with a profound sense of fondness and gratitude with which we remember our Founder, Ron Hicks. He died peacefully in his home in Montgomery, Alabama on February 8, 2019.
Board of Directors
Ron was a true visionary ... a man who saw suffering in the eyes of a young Honduran girl in 2004 and was driven by his generous heart and unwavering determination to create a ministry that continues to pursue his vision of breaking the cycle of poverty in that region of the world. He cared deeply for the people of Honduras. The entire Lunches for Learning family will miss Ron terribly.
Our prayers are with his wife Elise, daughters Krista and Sondra, and the entire Hicks family as we celebrate the life of a great man who impacted so many others' lives with his kind heart, determined nature, and generous spirit.
Read about Ron's Journey
"A life lived for others is a life worthwhile."
Jim Coyle, Board Chair
Jim is the founder and CEO of PaperHost, a web-based document management service company. Jim has over 30 years of experience in design, development, and deployment of successful document management solutions for a variety of industries. He now serves in a similar capacity for MediStreams and brings medical banking and document management experience to the team. Jim resides in Roswell, GA with his wife Cheryl. Their two adult sons live in the area and work with Dad. Jim is a graduate of Washington and Lee University with a B.S. in Physics/Engineering and Georgia Tech with an M.S. in Computer Science.
Jim has served on the board of STAR House and is the Past President of the Roswell Rotary Club. He enjoys golf, travel, and creating sawdust in his woodshop.
Jeff Bohman, Vice-Chair
Jeff is retired as Vice President of Warren Averett Technology Group, LLC which is an IT consulting affiliate of the public accounting firm Warren Averett LLC. With more than 20 years of combined business and computer experience, Mr. Bohman provides leadership in areas of financial integrity, operation infrastructure, and administration of Lunches for Learning. Mr. Bohman is a founding member of Lunches for Learning.
Michael Picchi, Treasurer
Mike is Chief Financial Officer of East West Manufacturing, a global contract manufacturer of electronics. With 30 years of finance and accounting experience, Mike has served as CFO of four companies after beginning his career as a CPA for Coopers and Lybrand, LLP. Mike holds a B.S. in Accounting and an MBA in Finance from Indiana University. He formerly served as Chairman of the RUMC Foundation Board of Directors. Mike and his wife of 30 years, Amanda, live in Roswell, GA, and are the parents of four young adults. When not in Roswell, they enjoy time at the lake in Blairsville, GA.
Kay Love, Secretary
Kay is a Municipal Operations Consultant with the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA). She has 25 years of public sector experience specializing in local government and public education financial management. Prior to joining GMA, she served for ten years as the City Administrator for the City of Roswell, GA.
She holds MBA and B.B.A. degrees from Columbus State University. She is a member of the Roswell Rotary Club and several professional organizations. She enjoys traveling to Honduras to see firsthand the positive impact that the Lunches for Learning program has on the children and communities it serves.
Pastor Ken Gibson
Pastor Ken is the newest L4L Board Member, having joined in September 2020. On October 1, 2020, he began a new chapter in his ministry as Senior Pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Mendota, Illinois. He had previously served as Senior Pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Woodstock, Illinois from 2009 to 2020 and Vice President for Mission Support at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa from 2000 to 2008. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Platteville and the Wartburg Theological Seminary. During his tenure at Grace Lutheran Church, Pastor Ken was instrumental in GLC’s decision to become a School Sponsor with L4L. Read more about Pastor Ken’s passion for L4L on the Our Partners page.
Jack retired after thirty years from GlaxoSmithKline on January 31, 2016, as Senior Director, State Government Affairs for the twenty-six state South Region. Jack joined Glaxo in 1986 as a Regional Manager and was promoted to Sr. Director, State Government Affairs in 1992. Jack supervised nine directors and was responsible for all state legislative activity for the entire GSK portfolio. Over the years Jack has successfully managed the SGA team of professionals as they lobby on behalf of GSK's policy throughout the South Region. Jack represented the company on the PhRMA State Section that coordinates the industry's position on all state legislative issues, and he has served as the Section Chair twice in his career. Jack remains active in many legislative organizations including the State Legislative Leaders Foundation and serves on the board of NCBIO.
Jack earned a BA degree in Marketing from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Missouri. He is currently President at JP Graham Consulting, LLC, and resides in Montgomery, Alabama with his wife Dittra.
Steve is the founder of Continental Brokerage Corporation, which has been a leader in volume beef sales for over 34 years. He is a graduate of Florida State University. Mr. Gulledge became interested in Lunches for Learning after hearing Ron Hicks' presentation at a Rotary Club meeting. Having seen the need during business trips to Honduras, Mr. Gulledge is helping the children at Jose Trinidad Reyes Elementary take advantage of their educational opportunities by sponsoring the L4L lunch program at their school.
Kristi M. Holzimmer
Kristi is chief manager of a real estate-related business, Central Alabama Title Center, LLC, which is owned by a consortium of Alabama Banks. Ms. Holzimmer is a founding member of Lunches for Learning and brings over 25 years of combined business experience in the areas of management, marketing, and business development to Lunches for Learning.
Theo is intimately involved with community service on a local and international basis, which she bridges to her professional life at Meridian Group. Prior to joining Meridian Group, she worked in both the German and Atlanta offices and lived in Germany while servicing her US-based international search firm placing executive level senior financial talent into medium to large, global organizations, and was the President of a national boutique recruitment firm that specialized in project-based and onsite recruitment for US companies undergoing major transitions.
Theo has a vast global network of operational, accounting, and finance talent that she has worked with over the last decade. Her service centers on poverty alleviation and health & wellness. Her work combined with her professional acumen has gained her numerous accolades throughout her career.
Armando is co-owner and General Sales and Custom Relations Manager in a family business, Grupo Mccos, which started in Honduras as a courier service in 1996, but has expanded to a logistics company that sees to provide custom services for personal and corporate clients. Mr. McCormick is a charter member of the Villa Real De Tegucigalpa Rotary Club. He volunteers as a board member of the Alternativas y Oportunidades (nonprofit) since 2014 and the Fundación Uniendo America (microcredit-nonprofit) since 2015.
Armando and his wife, Wendy Ayestas have 3 children and enjoy spending time together as a family.
Joe is the founder of Murphey's Law Firm, LLC, in Marietta, GA, is an attorney and mediator. Joe has tried over 300 cases as lead counsel, and served as mediator on nearly 3,000 cases, bringing him recognition within the state ("Top 100 Lawyers in Georgia") and nationally (National Law Journal "ADR Trailblazer" Award). When he's not mediating at the firm of Miles Mediation and Arbitration, LLC, volunteering in the community, or spending time with his family, Joe is usually playing drums or harmonica with several local bands.
Joe also serves on the board of the Cobb Library Foundation and was proud to serve as Scoutmaster for Troop 797 in East Cobb where his son obtained the rank of Eagle. As a member of the East Cobb Rotary Club, Joe first became aware of L4L and the amazing work they are doing to reverse the cycle of poverty in Honduras. Joe has led the effort to make L4L (and the Pedro Nufio School they sponsor within L4L) the signature international service project for East Cobb Rotary.
Ace has been a resident of the Mississippi Gulf Coast most of his life. He attended Mississippi State University where he received his BS in Electrical Engineering. While at college Ace was a member of the MSU Track team and a member of the Kappa Beta Chapter of Theta Tau Engineering Fraternity.
Ace has served as a member of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, D'Iberville Chamber of Commerce, member of NRECA's T & D Engineering Underground Subcommittee (past Secretary and past President), and a Director of Chemical Abuse Prevention Services in Jackson County, MS.
Ace has been involved in Rotary International for almost 30 years starting with the Rotary Club of Gautier, MS where he was club president in 2003-2004. He was Rotarian of the Year for his club in 2008. He served as an Assistant Governor for District 6840 from 2004 to 2007 and was Rotarian of the Year for District 6840 in 2004-2005.
Ace and his wife Patti have 3 children and 4 grandchildren. In his spare time, Ace enjoys fishing and golf. He is an accomplished self-taught handyman and mechanic, and always has some project in the works. Now that he has retired, he plans to spend more time with the grandchildren, on his Rotary endeavors and working on his honey-do list.
Bill is a native Georgian and received his pharmacy degree from the University of Georgia. Before retirement, he spent forty-two years as a registered pharmacist in both retail pharmacy and pharmacy management.
Bill and his wife, Anita, live in Canton, GA, and are active members of Roswell United Methodist Church. They are the proud parents of two grown daughters and one grandson. His hobbies include sports, woodworking, traveling, and gardening.
As an electrical engineer, Craig began his career in technical product development, ultimately leading to a 20-year career in sales management for a Fortune 500 technology company. More recently, he partnered with his wife, becoming chief operating officer of their healthcare recruiting and staffing firm. Presently, Craig is active as an investor, coach, teacher, and volunteer. He is a leader in his church, an active Rotarian, a leader in a job networking ministry and community supporter.
Terry is the founder and President of Tight Line Exteriors, a construction firm, and Allsouth Renovations, a home remodeling company, both located in Marietta, GA. He has lived in many parts of the country, moving from the west coast, to the mid-west to the south for various corporate career opportunities. In 1997 he moved his young family to Marietta Georgia where he assumed the role of Director of Sales for North American Industrial products. In 2004 he began his entrepreneurial career investing in Tight Line.
Terry has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and an MBA from Pepperdine University. He has a passion for faith-based mission work and is active in his community and church. He currently sits on the board for Roswell Rotary and Lunches for Learning. He enjoys traveling the world, fly-fishing, golfing and spending time with his wife Amy of more than 30 years. Together they have raised three children and consider them their greatest accomplishment in life.
Lunches for Learning Staff
Phil Dodson, Executive Director
Phil Dodson joined the Lunches for Learning team as Executive Director in 2016 after serving as Development Director for North Georgia Camp & Retreat Ministries in Atlanta from 2006 to 2016. As a 1986 graduate of LaGrange College in LaGrange, GA, Phil began his career in higher education, serving three different colleges in the Admission and Financial Aid arena. In 1997, he transitioned to the credit and financial services industry where he served in several Client Relations roles before returning to the nonprofit sector in 2006 with North Georgia Camp and Retreat Ministries. Phil and his wife Tracy live in Alpharetta, GA. They have three children: Megan, age 25; Mia, age 23; and Jimmy, age 20.
Mary Lou Monaghan, Operations Administrator
Mary Lou (ML) joined the Lunches for Learning team as Operations Administrator in 2015 after serving as a Senior Manager, Government Affairs, and Association Manager at National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) for 16 years. ML earned her Business Management degree from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and the University of West Florida in Pensacola. She is originally from Buffalo, NY, and now resides in Alpharetta, GA. She can be contacted directly at 678.232.7941 or click on her photo to send her an email. ML is pictured with her family; son DJ, daughter-in-law Megan (center), grandson Logan, daughter Amanda (left), and daughter Kaitlin (right).
Ramón Romero, Manager of Honduran Operations
Ramón currently serves as general manager of the Honduras operations. He is a teacher by profession and even spent 15 years as a teacher at a Lunches for Learning school, Romulo Alvarado in the El Caragual community. He also serves as an English professor at the National Pedagogical University in Nacaome during the evenings each week. Ramón holds a Master's degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. After serving as a teacher in an L4L-sponsored school, Ramón has seen the impact of the L4L program first-hand. He was already teaching at Romulo Alvarado when the L4L program came to the school in 2013, so he witnessed the increased enrollment, improved health, and enhanced learning ability of the students there as they began receiving daily nutritious lunches. The increased enrollment allowed the school to eventually add 7th, 8th and 9th grades, which dramatically expanded the students' educational opportunities.
Ramón and his wife Angie are pictured here with their three children Stefania (15), Heysel (6), and Ian (20 months).
Jessica Gonzalez, Manager of External Relations, Honduras
Jessica studied at Jose Cecilio del Valle University in Tegucigalpa. Jessica attended elementary school at the Andrea Gonzalez Elementary School in El Amatillo, which is the very first school in the Lunches for Learning school lunch program. Jessica has worked with Lunches for Learning over the years in a variety of capacities, which include translating during business appointments and administrative assistant duties. Jessica understands first-hand how important Lunches for Learning is for the children in Honduras and is so proud to be part of this amazing program that is helping the children of Honduras to have a better future.
This photo shows Jessica with her husband Cesar and their three children Cesar Issac (18), Daniela Ivonne (15), and Angely Gabriela (11).
Juniors Ortiz, Honduran Operations Supervisor
Juniors (pronounced "Junior") was born in Tegucigalpa and moved with his parents to Nacaome, in the Valle Department, at the age of two. He continues to live in Nacaome as do his mother and younger siblings. He received his primary education in a bilingual school, Jose Trinidad Cabañas. He studied through ninth grade in the Technical department of the Terencio Sierra school in Nacaome, then obtained his Technical Bachelor's degree in Computing in Choluteca. Juniors is proud to be a part of this incredible program that is providing a better future for his fellow citizens in the Valle region of Honduras.
Juniors is pictured here with his fiancée Isis and their 1-year-old son Lucas.
The Lunches for Learning Team
June of 2019 was the first time our entire team has been together in Honduras in quite a while.
It seemed an appropriate time for a team photo.
Front row, left to right, are Juniors Ortiz, Mary Lou Monaghan, and Phil Dodson.
Back row, left to right, are Jessica Gonzalez and Ramón Romero.