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Hunger Beat

The 11-year-old helping to provide thousands of meals for his neighbors

Ray Lavko, 11, is an inquisitive kid. So last year, when he saw a Food Depository mailing asking for donations to help neighbors experiencing food insecurity, he peppered his mom, Alexis, with questions.

“He asked me, ‘Why don’t people have enough to eat? How can we help them? Where does this money go?’” Alexis said. After a conversation about food insecurity, Ray disappeared into his bedroom and emerged minutes later with a fistful of dollars. It was all the money he had, $180 he’d received from his grandparents and other relatives for birthdays and Christmases. He wanted to donate all of it to the Food Depository.

a boy and his mother sit at their kitchen island

Ray and his mom, Alexis, with Ray’s cash box and the book where he records all the money he receives and donates.

Alexis was moved by her son’s compassion, but not surprised. “He’s always been concerned about people who don’t have enough to eat or a place to live,” she said.

During the pandemic, tent encampments popped up near their home, prompting Ray to ask questions about the circumstances that led to people being unhoused. At Ray’s suggestion, the family – including dad, Ray, and brother, Theo, 7 – packed bags with food, water and a little money to give to these neighbors.

“It makes me sad when people don’t have enough to eat or a place to live,” Ray said.

Knowing their son’s big heart, Ray and Alexis also weren’t surprised last Thanksgiving that Ray was disappointed he couldn’t provide even more meals with his donation to the Food Depository. The couple agreed to match their son’s donation and suggested they ask friends and family to contribute as well.

Within weeks they’d raised enough to donate $800 to the Food Depository. It was the equivalent of 2,400 meals for older adults on fixed incomes, working families struggling to make ends meet and children around Ray’s age, who are especially vulnerable to food insecurity. Ray was thrilled.

volunteers at the Food Depository

Alexis volunteers to repack food at the Food Depository with her coworkers at Epsilon Economics.

In the months leading up to Thanksgiving this year, the family started noticing tents around the city housing asylum-seeking new arrivals from the southern U.S. border. Ray asked his parents questions about where the people would live and how they would eat, especially once the temperatures dropped. With the needs so evident, they decided to raise funds to donate to the Food Depository again this holiday season.

The family launched the fundraiser just before Giving Tuesday (November 28) and plan to wrap it up before Christmas. This year Ray hoped to raise enough to donate $1,000 to the Food Depository. With our bulk buying power, that’s equivalent to 3,000 meals. Ray has surpassed that goal already and has been elated to watch the total rise.

a boy in a ballcap smiles at the camera

Ray proudly sports his Food Depository swag.

“We are so proud of Ray and his concern for the welfare of others,” Alexis said, adding that caring for those in need has been a value in the family for generations.

Husband Ray adds, “He wants to run for president so he can make sure everyone has a home and enough to eat. He has big plans to change the world.”

The Food Depository is grateful Ray has started that world change by partnering with us to help create a hunger-free community.

Be like Ray and start your own virtual food drive fundraiser!

Watch NBC5 Chicago interview Ray.

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