This holiday season, as we reflect on events and actions from this past year and we make resolutions for the new one, CVN has been spotlighting individuals in the Carpinteria Valley community who have shown extraordinary generosity of spirit and service in 2019.
This week, in our last installation of the series, we get to know Leah Wagner who is a volunteer with the community’s hot lunch program. Also known as “The Lunch Bunch,” Leah belongs to a passionate and eclectic group of volunteers who come together each week to provide a warm meal to those in need.
Along with a hot meal, the group provides a centralized location for local service organizations such as AmeriCorps, United Way and a medical professional to provide critical services to the homeless community. These services include provision of basic necessities, basic medical treatment and rehabilitation services for relocating and housing.
The hot lunch volunteer group meets and serves food every Wednesday at the Veterans Memorial Building Meeting Room from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Leah and her husband Dan have been married for 28 years and raised their three children in Carpinteria. In addition to volunteering, she is a licensed realtor at MurphyKing Real Estate. For Leah, volunteering is about “sharing yourself with others without the expectation of anything in return.”
CVN: What do you do for the hot lunch program?
Leah Wagner: I help keep us organized! I send weekly emails, keeping our group aware of who is providing the weekly lunch, as well as communicating any needs we may have for that upcoming weekly lunch. I also do social outreach in the community to educate and raise awareness of the services we offer.
What motivated you to get involved?
I’m a people person. I have had a heart for the homeless population since I was a teenager. About 10 years ago, I read the book, “Under the Overpass,” by Mike Yankoski. I realized that rather than giving money, it would be better to build relationships and offer love and encouragement. A meal is an intimate experience and I love getting to know our friends over a meal and see how best to serve them that day/week.
What’s special about this organization?
Together we are a perfect blend. We all have different gifts and we all use them to serve our lunch program.
Why do you think it’s important for people give back to their community?
I believe it is important for everyone to contribute to their community. We are stronger together when we all chip in and help. There are many causes in our community that could use some extra hands. I encourage everyone to find something that takes the focus off yourself and to give back. We all like to receive but sometimes it’s better to give!
How has volunteering with this organization impacted your life?
It has been very fulfilling to be a part of a group of volunteers who are extremely committed to serving others. Our success stories are huge motivators and help us to realize our efforts are not in vain. Some of our successes include: the successful housing of homeless individuals and a relocation of another.
Do you have any wishes for the new year?
To continue to love and encourage our homeless population towards a full life. I would also love to see our lunch program offered more than one time a week and we have visions of a shower service too.