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January 6, 2010

Lindsy Seidel: A Hunger to Supply Relief

http://www.jewishjournal.com/mensches/article/lindsy_seidel_a_hunger_to_supply_relief_20100105

From the cheerful campus of Milken Community High School, Los Angeles’ Skid Row can seem worlds away. But the realities of homelessness and squalor plaguing L.A. city streets were brought home for student Lindsy Seidel last year on a “life-changing” visit.

“What we saw was astonishing,” said Seidel, 17, now a senior at Milken. “There were such horrid conditions. Poverty was something I always knew was there, but never knew much about. It really opened my eyes.”

The visit bolstered Seidel’s commitment to relieving hunger, an issue she has worked on for years through programs at school and when she was chosen as a 2008 Diller Teen Fellow. The Diller fellowship, an intensive 10-month leadership and community service program, taught Seidel “life lessons” that she has already put to use at Milken and throughout the city.

Through the program, Seidel and other Los Angeles Diller teens learned about hunger and homelessness and decided to work with Midnight Mission, an organization that provides food, shelter and employment services to L.A.’s homeless. The teens collected donations from family and friends and made hundreds of hygiene kits — containing basic items like soap and shampoo — to distribute to the organization’s clients. In total, they were able to hand out kits to more than 430 people.

The campaign fit naturally with the work Seidel had already been doing to raise awareness about hunger at Milken. For the past three years, Seidel has chaired a hunger-focused group as part of YOZMA, a social action leadership initiative at the school. The group promotes the issue of hunger and urges other students to get involved, work that Seidel says gives her profound satisfaction.

“I can go and feed someone — it’s almost an instant gratification…. I can immediately see the change I’m making,” she said.

Two years ago, Seidel also encouraged her fellow Milken students to start raising money for Blessings in a Backpack, an organization that provides a backpack full of ready to eat and easy to make foods every Friday to underprivileged public school students. Last year, Milken gave the organization a donation of more than $1,000.

“Something I try to drive home in the Milken community is you never know if you’ll be that person who needs help, so we have to do something now,” Seidel said. “You would want someone to be there to help you.”

Once a month, Seidel and 10 to 12 of her fellow Milken students take part in “SOVA Sundays” at the SOVA Food Bank.

Her dedication to the issue has earned her some notice. In October, Seidel was a Milken representative to the Interfaith Hunger Summit hosted by the Board of Rabbis of Southern California as part of The Jewish Federation’s “Fed Up With Hunger” initiative. There, Seidel addressed Jewish community leaders and Catholic students from Santa Margarita High School in Orange County about her work to advocate against hunger.

“She had such presence and passion and voice,” said Lori Port, senior associate director of education at The Jewish Federation, who was at the convention and also oversaw Seidel’s involvement with the Diller program. “She’s really thinking strategically and communally about how to address hunger. Community service is a huge passion of hers, and she galvanizes other kids to get involved.”

Seidel stresses that she doesn’t only want to donate food as she presses forward with her work — that, she says, is just a “Band-Aid on the problem.” She also wants to learn to advocate at the political level to enact changes in social policy that would more thoroughly tackle the issue.

Next year Seidel will go to college, where she hopes to continue her work to eradicate hunger. “I hope I’m eventually able to create change that is noticeable,” she said. l

Sounds like she’s well on her way.

You can be a mensch, too! Join the cause.
http://www.jfsla.org/sova

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