By Madison Everett
Lunchtime in grade school is either the favorite part of the day or a nightmare. For Jill Brown, it was the latter. Growing up, she moved around a lot, which led to loneliness during lunchtime at each new school.
“I always felt like I was on the outside of social groups,” Jill says. “Lunch was the hardest. I didn’t have anywhere to go, and I felt like I was the only one sitting alone. If I had looked around, I would have seen kids just like me.”
Jill is passionate about helping students see outside themselves.
Time to Spread Her Wings
Seven years ago, Jill and her husband moved with their three children. The change was difficult for her daughter, Melynne. She missed her friends and struggled to make new ones. She was lonely and dreaded school.
Jill contacted the PTSA president to see if she could get involved, but all the positions were filled. Later, the PTSA president called and told her there was a new 6th-grade student who was lonely and she wondered if Jill would be willing to head up a service group to help students who were struggling. That sixth grade student was Jill’s daughter.
“I was thrilled to see her during the day and to help other children who were lonely or needed more attention,” Jill says.
Preparing for Take-off
Six years later, the program has grown to include many children, parent volunteers and projects.
Today, Lunchtime Service Events is a weekly tradition involving service projects at Cedar Ridge Elementary in Cedar Hills, Mountain Ridge Junior High in Highland, and Lone Peak High School. Jill and a team of volunteers set up camp in the lunch room while a group of 80 kids help with service projects for kids in need. This not only changed Melynne’s experience for the better, but it has helped countless students set their worries aside and serve others.
Helping Students Soar
“When Service Events started, I had a place where I could go and do something useful while being around other kids like me,” Melynne says. “Service Events is where I learned how to talk to people my age. I eat my lunch in record time so I can get there as soon as possible. I feel like I have friends. We need kids to start helping others or they will become the ones who need help.”
Jill has lifted hundreds of students from elementary, middle and high school who now have meaningful lunchtime experiences. Jill knows how hard it can be and that is why she is so passionate about changing that around for these students. The parents are also seeing a difference in their children since joining Service Events.
“My daughter had very few friends and spent most lunch periods alone in sixth grade,” parent volunteer Denise says. “Service Events was such a positive experience for her! She had a place to belong, and an activity to focus on, which helped her to socialize without the fear of rejection. I am so grateful for the program because once a week my daughter wasn’t conspicuously alone at lunch. Jill has done an amazing job bringing this program to other schools as well and is dedicated to helping students in need.”
Jill’s creative solution has given flight to many lonely students and has led to incredible service projects along the way.
Join the Flight
For information about volunteering with Lunchtime Service Events at Cedar Ridge Elementary in Cedar Hills, Mountain Ridge Junior High in Highland or Lone Peak High School, contact the PTSA or front office at each school.
Originally published in the 2019 July/August issue of Utah Valley Magazine.