July 7, 2021


by: admin


Tags: Autism, Community, Food, Helping, Insecure, Organization, Powered, Volunteers


Categories: autism

Group Powered By Volunteers with Autism is Serving to the Meals Insecure in Their Group

When COVID-19 closed a school for special needs students, a student used the time to start a new project. This project helps feed the unsafe food and gives people with special needs the opportunity to improve their community.

Nineteen-year-old Paige Cook, who is on the autism spectrum and primarily non-verbal, studied farming at TERI Inc.’s The Country School in San Marcos, California. She was very impressed by the work in the raised bed gardens of a TERI group house. When the pandemic broke out and the campus closed, it was left without this vital lifeline.


However, her teacher Meghan Hoppes had an idea to help her keep doing this job that she enjoyed so much. Hoppes invited Paige and her mother Malinda Dalton-Cook to their home to pick fruit from the grapefruit, lemon and orange trees in their garden.

Dalton-Cook says, “So with masks, a plastic tub that I found in my garage, gloves and a pair of secateurs, we met Paige’s teacher and started picking the fruit. Holy smoke … I knew that Paige loved a task, but she was overwhelmed by its hectic pace. “

With their harvest that day, mother and daughter left some of the fruit with the staff at Paige’s school at home. Over time, they found other gardeners, farms, and organizations that enabled them to collect fruits and vegetables for those in need.


The effort has grown so far that their work is now an official nonprofit organization: Paige’s Pantry. Every week the producers donate their fruit and vegetables or have Paige and her mother pick them. Then the pantry distributes the donations to church groups or directly to families affected by food insecurity.

How do they collect and deliver these increasing contributions? With the help of volunteers on the autism spectrum.

Says Dalton-Cook, “Part of the plan is to help them develop professional skills. Also, if you can only open a bag and hold it open while someone else is putting things in, that’s great. Even if they can only move products from A to B, that’s great. We can work with anyone. “

She adds that this type of opportunity is important because there aren’t many programs out there for adults with autism. By volunteering at Paige’s Pantry, Dalton-Cook hopes they can learn and thrive. She says Paige learned communication skills, wrote weekly letters, and set administrative goals.


Another volunteer who helped the program is Denise Padilla, 21, who is packaging the products. Her mother Rose drives her in every week and is grateful that Denise has something she can use her time for. The older she gets, the less chance she has.

Rose explains, “Especially for Denise, now that she has left the school system, it is difficult to find what to do. And that is a very typical situation for people with developmental disabilities who are either over 22 years old or have left the school system. “

Given the lack of services for young adults on the spectrum, they are less likely to find employment and it can be more difficult to maintain connections with people.

Dalton-Cook hopes Paige’s Pantry can help. Their dream is to move operations to a warehouse when they get enough donations and products to make it happen. At this point she wants to start converting the volunteers into paid employees. Until then, they are open to all volunteers from the spectrum.

To learn more about Paige’s Pantry, visit her website.



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