I’m a Tulsa Kid: Ben McCullough

Editor’s Note: Ben’s mom Katie helped with the answers.

1. Describe what Ben did at Iron Gate.

Ben said, “I helped kids by giving them food.”
Ben’s mom Katie explained further: Iron Gate is a non-profit soup kitchen and food pantry that feeds the hungry and homeless in Tulsa each day. They provide hot meals, sandwiches and kids’ packs full of nutritious snacks. Ben put together and donated kids’ packs to be handed out to children that visit Iron Gate. He worked with our family to purchase the supplies including juice boxes, granola bars, fruit cups, puddings and more. He then helped divide all of the items into gallon Ziploc bags that we took to Iron Gate to be handed out to their clients. His kids’ packs were handed out starting the very next day and we were even able to get a picture of some of the kids that enjoyed them.
The staff at Iron Gate made this process so simple for us to be able to give, but also so meaningful. There is a list of items desired for the kids’ packs making shopping and assembling straight forward. Connie Cronley, Iron Gate executive director, really made Ben’s visit memorable by introducing him to other staff members and touring him around their facilities.

2. How did he get involved in doing this?

Ben’s kindergarten class volunteers in their food pantry at First Christian on a regular basis, and he became very interested in this activity. Ben quickly learned how many boxes of food were packed each week, the types of food, who might receive them, and he wanted to know how he could help. He loves packing those boxes and preparing them for their recipients. He started showing us on our grocery trips which food items on the shelves were ones he was familiar with from the food pantry.
I had recently received an Iron Gate newsletter stating a specific need for kids’ packs and how to get more information on donating them. I knew this was something Ben would really connect with. It was something he was capable of doing with a little assistance, and it was for kids just like him that he would be able to identify with, and it was local.

3. Do you and your family normally volunteer at Iron Gate?

We actually don’t. A family friend volunteers there on a regular basis and we had made monetary donations, but we had never volunteered there ourselves. I am so thankful that we did, and we hope to make this a family tradition.

4. Why did you want Ben to get involved with this project?

As Christian parents, one of our goals is to show our kids how to care for others that may not be blessed in the same ways we are. My husband and I want to share our values and beliefs with our kids in a tangible way. As soon as Ben expressed any interest in his food pantry volunteer work at school, I knew this could be one way that passion could be developed in him and we could encourage his generous spirit. It also provided a concrete example to him of all of the different kinds of people that live right here in Tulsa, but how they are also kids and grownups just like us.

5. What did he think of it or say about it?

Ben said, “It made me feel good to donate the food. It was fun! When we help people, it shows them God’s love.”
He truly enjoyed the entire experience. During our shopping trip, he was in charge of the list and worked to pick each specific item. Most were items similar to what he had seen at school in the food pantry. He was so pleased with his efforts and just beamed telling “Miss Connie” about what he had to give to Iron Gate. He told her he planned to save money from his chores as well to share with people that needed it more than he did.  He even told her all about his new bank that has “share,” “save” and “spend“ compartments.
When Ben received the thank you note from Iron Gate it had a picture of Ben during his trip there and of some of the kids that received the kids’ packs the next day.  He has those pictures on his bulletin board at home and loves looking at the kids and wonders who else might have gotten to enjoy some of the food.
Ben said, “I plan to donate again and share my money.”