Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Amanda Kenney cooks for Payne Ave after school program

Meet Miss Amanda: After-school program cook (video)

Added on Thursday, April 27, 2017

Written by Haley Earley, manager of donor offers for The Salvation Army Northern Division

(Watch video) – Student in after-school programEvery Monday through Thursday at the Payne Ave. Salvation Army in St. Paul, mobs of kids skip through the cafeteria and eagerly call to Amanda Kenney, “What are we having? What are we having?”

From inside the kitchen, Kenney always hollers back the same response: “Something good!”

Kenney works as a cook at the Payne Ave. Salvation Army, where she prepares hot meals for dozens of kids enrolled in the after-school program. All of her delicious and nutritious meals include vegetables, fruit, grains, and meat.

Kenney serves the food in generous portions, for an important reason: Some of the kids go home to empty cupboards.

“This might be their only meal for the night,” Kenney said.

Miss Amanda: ‘I was there.’

The children know her as Miss Amanda. They love her because of her smile and the yummy food she makes. They respect her because she used to be one of them. Now 26, Amanda grew up attending the same after-school program starting at age 8.

“It’s a great program,” said Kenney, who continued in the after-school program as a volunteer throughout high school after she outgrew the program. “It helps the community and it helps the children get on the right track. Many families don’t have access to the same support at home that The Salvation Army offers.”

Kenney and her family depended on that same support while she was growing up. Her parents both worked and couldn’t afford expensive child care to fill the gap between the end of the school day and end of work.

Today, most of the kids Kenney serves are in the same situation. But thanks to The Salvation Army and its supporters, the children have a safe and productive place to go after school.

“The after-school program is a place to get homework done, get some food, and enjoy being with friends in a comfortable environment,” Kenney said. Before the cooking job opened up, Kenney had been working at a school cafeteria. She jumped at the chance to work for The Salvation Army because she knew her impact would extend beyond the food she made.

“Even though I’m the cook, these kids know they can talk to me anytime,” said Kenney, adding that she is thankful to “step in and be that support system.”


From Attendee to Volunteer

Many times youth aren’t ready to leave our programs after they age out, so they volunteer to stay involved like Kenney did. Her path is a commonly chosen one for participants in the Payne Ave. Salvation Army after-school program. Last year, we introduced readers to a group of 12 teenagers who volunteered more than 2,200 hours after aging-out (read related story).

These attendees-turned-volunteers make up an important part of the volunteer staff, but we need many more volunteers to keep the program thriving.

Getting Started as a Volunteer

After-school programs are just one example of how The Salvation Army can use your gift of time as a volunteer to make a positive impact on today’s youth.

If you’d like to find an opportunity to serve youth where you live, the first step is to connect with your local Salvation Army. Select your location on our volunteer opportunities page. You’ll be taken to your local Salvation Army’s list of current volunteer opportunities and contact information for the staff member who can guide you through the volunteer sign-up process.

Please join The Salvation Army by volunteering, or making a donation in your local community.