Summer Meal Program at Gatewood Apartments

Summer Meal Program at Gatewood Apartments

By: D’Havian Scott

This week we sat down with Peter Jensen, one of the Yes Network’s valued partners. Peter serves as the community manager for the Gatewood apartment complex, located across from Discovery Elementary School in Saint Cloud. Gatewood is a diverse community and serves as home to just under 360 persons. Peter has served this community for 14 years and, through his work, strives to get to know the children and families that live there.

Peter had partnered with the Yes Network for several years, starting in the summer before the program began. He took part in a focus group hosted by Yes Network Founder and Executive Director Jerry Sparby, where he was presented with the Summer meal program, and Peter says from then on, he was “on board.” Peter admitted that the program took some trial and error, stating that “none of us knew what to expect, but I mean, it turned out to be a very good year, ” leading to his continued participation.

As the manager of Gatewood,  Peter finds creative ways to connect with the families living in the community. In speaking about his partnership with the Yes Network and his role, Peter explains, “I guess my obligation is to provide space. I’ve always enjoyed doing it, just because it gives me a chance to be something other than the guy in the office. It’s one way for me to learn the kid’s names or families. So I guess my responsibility also is to support and add insight and suggestions.” He also talked about the great receptive atmosphere that the organization’s founder has always created for their partnership.

As part of his service to the community, Peter not only supports the summer meal program at Gatewood Apartments but also insists on serving the meals as a part of his goal to get to know the families better. In reflecting on how his service impacts the community, Peter said, “ It was exciting to see the kids involved and parents, even to a degree. That was probably the best thing about our involvement with the Yes Network, the activity appreciation. They had something to look forward to, and I mean, the kids look forward to it. On weekends, they just kind of sat on their hands, and they have something to look forward to on Monday.”

Peter also mentioned the impacts and motivation of this service in his community. He spoke about how important having the meals were to the members of the community.  Meals were especially important because, during the summer, parents worked different shifts, and depending on what they were doing, you were not able to get a meal until later. “It’s also a concern that I don’t see the kids.” Peter reflected, “This gets them outside, gets them active, and encourages them socially. So we’re offering opportunities for participation and socialization. We used to have like a kids club where we encouraged some projects, and the degree of success depended on if the kids wanted to {participate] or not. Food is a great motivator. So if we can entice them with a burger, and then invite them to pick up a paintbrush or just to begin some activity, kills two birds with one stone. “ This is especially important to our partnership with Gatewood because it reinforces the Yes Network’s mission and vision to engage and connect families and children to their communities.

When asked if there is anything that he would like readers to know, Peter stressed the importance of getting involved. “There’s always an opportunity to get involved whether it’s handing out meals or participating in some activity. Everybody is welcome and encouraged.” The Yes Network is proud to highlight the work Peter has done.

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