From Our Executive Director
Update for September 2023
We've recently announced the creation of The Ron Hicks Fellowship, a society recognizing the individuals who have established a planned gift to benefit L4L. The purpose of a planned gift is to make a legacy gift to an organization you love. For many people, it's a way to make a more significant gift than we might be able to currently, and it's a way to have an impact on the L4L program for many years into the future.
The simplest form of planned gift is a bequest in your Last Will and Testament or Living Trust. If your Will is already established, then a simple one-page codicil can be completed as an addendum - you are not required to rewrite your entire Will to add a bequest to L4L. If you are currently drafting your Will or Living Trust, then you can incorporate as little as one sentence to add a bequest to L4L.
This Fellowship is named for our Founder, Ron Hicks. Ron's compassion for the children of rural southern Honduras, and his determination to do something to help give them hope for a better future, is the inspiration for this planned giving society. Any planned gift you establish is a gift that L4L will receive many years into the future. This Fellowship is a way for us to recognize today the gift that will be received much later. The commitment that a planned gift represents is worthy of recognition now.
More information regarding how to establish a planned gift can be found on the Other Ways to Give page of our website. If you have any questions about The Ron Hicks Fellowship or planned giving in general, please reach out to me. I would love to answer your questions.
Update from August
Vitamins are back on the menu!
The school lunch provided by Lunches for Learning is made up of culturally-relevant food items such as rice, beans, and tortillas, along with a glass of milk and a daily chewable multivitamin. These food items are purchased in Honduras, which means we are helping contribute to the local economy each time we purchase food. The only exception to this is the chewable multivitamin. Vitamins like these are not available at wholesale prices in Honduras, so we have always purchased the vitamins from Blessings International, a non-profit partner located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
In the past, our method of getting these vitamins to the kids in Honduras involved L4L Staff and Board Members carrying suitcases full of them on the plane with us on trips to Honduras. We checked the bags, then had them inspected by Honduran Customs upon arrival in Tegucigalpa. Because L4L is fully registered in Honduras, we paid no taxes or tariffs on these relatively small supplies of vitamins. We had a large supply of vitamins ready to go with us on our trips in early 2020, but those plans were cut short when "The 'C' Word" hit in March 2020. For more than 2 years, we were not able to make trips to Honduras at all, which severed our continual re-supply plan. By the time we were able to resume travel to Honduras in 2022, the vitamins we had purchased in early 2020 had all passed their expiration date. Honduras does not allow expired vitamins or medications to be imported.
Fast forward to July 2023, and we have finally resumed vitamins with L4L daily school lunches. Blessings International now offers free shipping of our vitamins to Honduras, and our first shipment arrived in Honduras in mid-June. The shipment finally cleared Customs on July 3rd, and by July 6th the kids were receiving their vitamins again at all schools in the L4L program.
The daily L4L lunch consists of rice, beans, tortillas, and a glass of milk. This provides the kids with the protein, carbohydrates, and calories that their growing bodies and minds need, while the chewable multivitamin adds vitamins A, C, D, E, B1, B2, B6, and B12 in addition to folic acid and iron.
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."
Kristi M. Holzimmer, Montgomery, Alabama (Chair)
Agency Manager, Fidelity National Title Insurance Company
Jeff Bohman, Montgomery, Alabama (Vice-Chair)
Retired, Former Vice President of Warren Averett Technology Group, LLC
Michael Picchi, Roswell, Georgia (Treasurer)
Chief Financial Officer of East West Manufacturing
Kay Love, Roswell, Georgia (Secretary)
Municipal Operations Consultant, Georgia Municipal Association (GMA)
Jim Coyle, Roswell, Georgia (Chair Emeritus)
Founder and CEO of MediStreams, Inc.
Jack Graham, Montgomery, Alabama
Retired Senior Director, GlaxoSmithKline
Steve Gulledge, Montgomery, Alabama
Founder, Continental Brokerage Corporation
Theo Keyserling, Roswell, Georgia
Founder and Managing Director, Meridian Group Partners
Joe Murphey, Marietta, Georgia
Attorney and Founder, Murphey's Law Firm, LLC
Ace Necaise, Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Retired Engineer, Singing River Electric Cooperative
Bill Rivers, Canton, Georgia
Craig Simons, Roswell, Georgia
Retired Electrical Engineer and Entrepreneur
Lunches for Learning Staff
Phil Dodson, Executive Director
Phil Dodson joined the Lunches for Learning team as Executive Director in 2016. His previous experience included serving as Development Director for North Georgia United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries in Atlanta from 2006 to 2016. As a 1986 graduate of LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia, 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 Client Relations roles with Total System Services in Columbus, Georgia, and Transunion in Atlanta before returning to the nonprofit sector in 2006 with North Georgia Camp & Retreat Ministries. Phil and his wife Tracy live in Cleveland, Georgia. They have three adult children: Megan, age 26; Mia, age 24; and Jimmy, age 21.
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). ML also has a new granddaughter Elizabeth Rose (not pictured yet).
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 had 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.