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Mooseheart students Christina Segbee (left) Anna Jensen are watched by Family Teacher Melissa Zinke as they put Thanksgiving dinner food into a box. The delivery, part of a program organized by Harvest Bible Church in Elgin, delivered 150 Thanksgiving meals and a group from Mooseheart delivered two of those meals.
Mooseheart students Gertrude Segbee (left) and Siannie Segbee discuss the way to place their loaf of bread into a box that eventually contained an entire Thanksgiving dinner.
Mooseheart students Christina Sebgee, Anna Jensen, Gertrude Sebgee, Siannie Segbee and Family Teacher Katie Sunleaf reach the final portion of the assembly line through which they put a Thanksgiving meal into a box in order to deliver it to a family in-need. The final food item placed in each box was a pumpkin pie.
MOOSEHEART, Nov. 29 - Think of all the things that most kids do on Thanksgiving morning: lazily watch the parades and the football games through midday; maybe go for a walk to build an appetite for a late-afternoon feast.
And then think what a quartet of Mooseheart children did on this year's holiday, before they had their own Thanksgiving feast:
They went out to pack up and deliver meals to people less fortunate. They got up early in the morning and went to Harvest Bible Chapel in Elgin, about 15 miles north of Mooseheart, sat in worship, spooned prepared Thanksgiving-meal fixings into a box, and then went with their Family Teachers to deliver those meals.
And their attitude toward this activity wasn’t full of humbug -- it was filled instead with humility.
“It’s pretty neat,” high school freshman Christina Segbee said. “It feels great because they get to also have a dinner that they might not have had, if we hadn’t delivered it.”
Segbee, who is 15, went with her siblings - 16-year-old Gertrude and 11-year-old Siannie along with 15-year-old Anna Jensen. All four live in Minnesota Residence Home and they returned to campus for a late afternoon dinner after their food deliveries were completed.
“This makes me feel good that I can give things to other people who might not be able to receive them,” Christina Segbee said.
The trip was organized by Minnesota Home Family Teacher Katie Sunleaf, who attends Harvest Bible Chapel and was aware of the food delivery program. Sunleaf said she organized a similar trip in 2010.
“I’m hoping that they realize that they can only give to other people what we have ourselves,” Sunleaf said. “When we realize what we have, whether it be from Mooseheart or from God -- we just realize how blessed we are and we can give back to other people. Even if it’s not monetary, we can give them just the love that we have or give them a smile.”
After attending a brief worship service, the Mooseheart team - along with other attendees, received instructions for how to pack the boxes, which were filled with a turkey, mashed potatoes, bread, vegetables and a pumpkin pie. The boxes were put together in an assembly line fashion.
“I feel happy and excited and proud of what we are doing,” Gertrude Segbee said. “I can give to help people who don’t have things to eat on Thanksgiving.”
Jensen is a recent arrival at Mooseheart who also appreciated the gesture in delivering the meals.
“It feels good to help other people knowing they might not be able to help themselves this Thanksgiving,” Jensen said. “It’s pretty amazing that all these people are going to have food when they didn’t have food before.”
Sunleaf said there are many reasons why the people on the delivery list were receiving food from the church on Thanksgiving.
“Sometimes they need the food and sometimes they need it because they want to see a friendly face, because they are lonely on Thanksgiving,” Sunleaf said. “So in whatever way we can give back to people and be a friendly person in their lives, that helps take the focus off ourselves.”
Mooseheart’s children are all “children in-need” - and the tradition of these children doing community service is a long-standing one. Community Service is also one of the pillars on which the Moose fraternity operates. Many Moose Lodges throughout the U.S. host Thanksgiving dinners for community members as well as Moose members.
“There’s a world outside Mooseheart that I want them to see,” Sunleaf said. “They’re going to grow up and go into this world. The motto is “Enter to Learn; Leave to Serve.” If they can learn that, then Mooseheart and all the Family Teachers are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Laura Zimmerman is Compassion Coordinator at Harvest Bible Chapel. She coordinates the church’s neighborhood outreach, which includes the Thanksgiving food delivery, a program that stretches nearly 10 years. This year, Zimmerman said 150 turkey dinners were delivered, a number that is only limited by the size of the church’s oven.
“There’s a lot of families in our community and in our church body who are in difficult situations right now,” Zimmerman said. “It is just a sweet blessing to know that we can provide Thanksgiving for them. This is a continuing ministry for us. Each month, we will be giving food pantry food to the people who received a Thanksgiving turkey today.”
Zimmerman said the Thanksgiving outreach is one more way for the church to enter the community, which was exactly the same motivation behind the Mooseheart children’s participation. A number of children made the food deliveries from Harvest Bible Chapel, and Zimmerman said she was happy to see them.
“It is a great example of the way we feel like Christ lived out his life,” Zimmerman said. “He entered into the world and was a part of the world around him and caring for people. It’s a sweet thing for children to be able to be a part of that and to be able to do it.”
Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0=A) are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.
Mooseheart is currently home to roughly 200 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment. Mooseheart boasts its own U.S. Post Office and a fully functioning branch of Fifth Third Bank.
In addition to Mooseheart, Moose International also supports Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, FL founded in 1922; and conducts more than $70 million worth of community service programs annually.