Church at Charlotte seeks the welfare of our Charlotte community by investing intentionally into the spiritual, emotional, and social lives of vulnerable children through our ServeLocal ministry. One of the ways we do this is coordinate volunteers who serve as tutors or lunch buddies with local vulnerable children. This interview with Fred Lehrer—or Mr. Fred, as many CAC Kids know him—is part of a series of interviews with these volunteers. To learn more about volunteering in this way, please contact Andrea Howell.
Why did you get involved in volunteering to be a lunch buddy?
As I am already working with elementary children at Church at Charlotte, the church’s decision to support vulnerable children with the For the City campaign piqued my interest. Through the many City Series lunches I had been listening for the spot where I could fit in. When the principal and assistant principal from Idlewild Elementary School came to City Series, they mentioned ways to get involved: tutoring, volunteering in various ways, and then said “having lunch with one of the students.” In my head I heard, “Ding, ding, ding, ding; I can do that.”
What has being a lunch buddy been like for you? Can you tell one or two stories that help show your experience?
On the third or fourth weekly lunch I was running 2-3 minutes late and as I came down the hall, my lunch buddy came around the corner and ran down the hall to greet me, smiling. His teacher has told me that every Tuesday he comes in happy and tells her it’s Mr. Fred Tuesday.
What has been the best part?
Seeing him smile when he sees me. Hearing from his teacher that his natural ability to learn is improving—he made A Honor Roll! (The day I walked in and saw his name on the A Honor Roll list, I was all but dancing with glee for him. The fourth graders walking by at the time got a good laugh at that one.) I congratulated him and really was excited for him to get that recognition.
As his school year drew to a close, he asked if I will be back next year to be his lunch buddy in second grade. I replied, “I am planning on it.” Actually, I wasn’t looking forward to a buddy-less summer. I’m glad it’s fall!
How have you been impacted by being a lunch buddy?
One of the lines from a song we sing in the Kids worship service at church says “Joy, unending joy . . .” There ya’ go. I told a friend of mine that I almost feel guilty for having so much fun doing something as simple as having lunch with a first grader. Keep in mind this is no one-on-one lunch. I’m surrounded by his friends, all of them asking questions or telling me their stories. Just maintaining some focus on my buddy can some days be quite a challenge. And I love every minute of it. And it’s my only chance to drink chocolate milk for lunch without guilt!
What do you see as the value of being a lunch buddy—in the life of the student and the life of the volunteer?
For the student, he has an adult who cares about him coming to spend time with him every week. As I understand it, his having a regular lunch buddy has helped change his attitude about other people in his life.
For the volunteer, I can speak only for myself. Since I began having lunch with my buddy, my perspective for each week has changed. Mondays are not nearly so much “Yuck-o, it’s Monday.” Now they are much closer to “All right! Only one day ‘till lunch buddy Tuesday.” It is the highlight of my work week. My conversations with my wife are interspersed with stories about my lunch buddy Tuesdays.