For Barstow High School senior Susanna King, making a difference in the world is part of her DNA – literally. Susanna remembers volunteering at Jewish Family Services Food Pantry as a young child when she would come with her mother, Amanda Morgan, to lend a hand.
“She taught me the values of tikkun olam [repairing the world] when I was very little,” Susanna said. “As I got older, I knew that I wanted to participate in giving back on my own terms.”
Her first philanthropic experience took place in third grade when Susanna organized a toy drive She followed up with a Bat Mitzvah project benefitting the JFS Food Pantry.
“For my project, my parents and I helped deliver food to homebound clients for a few months, and I organized and ran an activity with Machane Jehudah (a summer camp at The Temple-Congregation B’nai Jehudah) to create cards to brighten these clients’ days. They received a nice note or holiday card from one of the campers when we delivered the food,” Susanna said. “I saw my direct impact on helping someone else and seeing them smile from the cards we made.”
The daughter of Morgan and Chad King, Susanna is a busy high schooler but makes time to continue volunteering at JFS.
“I started being a client shopper twice monthly during Tuesday evening and Sunday shifts. I had been working those shifts in the Kansas pantry from eighth grade until the pandemic when in-person client shopping paused,” she said. “During the pandemic, I have continued volunteering at Brookside and Kansas for the drive-thru pantries. Last summer and fall, I also volunteered with the Marketing team to help document JFS during the pandemic by filming and creating a video using my BTVN skills.”
Susanna has managed to do all of this for JFS while following a rigorous academic schedule and participating in numerous school activities. President of Barstow’s Ambassadors Team, she has played on the school’s varsity soccer team and performs as a member of its Varsity dance team In addition, Susanna founded and serves as president of Barstow’s Jewish Student Union – the first in a Kansas City private school.
The skills Susanna’s learned as the executive producer of Barstow’s student news television show has spilled over to her JFS volunteer work. During the pandemic (and following COVID safety precautions), Susanna filmed and created a video about JFS’ ongoing efforts to help people during the crisis.
Her work with JFS provides Susanna with a strong link to Judaism.
“Volunteering helps me connect to the message of tikkun olam, which has really guided me through my Jewishness. I think that’s what started me to volunteer and in part leads me to continue volunteering,” said Susanna.
Susanna values the intrinsic value of volunteering at JFS.
“It’s less of what I get out of it and more of how can I help someone else,” she said. “Maybe it’s finding the brand of soup they like or just sharing a smile. I really just want to make sure clients have the dignity of experience with JFS they’re looking for at the pantry.”
“Susanna has touched the lives of so many in the various programs that she has volunteered in,” said Taly Friedman, Director of Volunteer Engagement. “From collecting gifts for Hanukkah to helping JFS launch the Sunshine Card program for her Bat Mitzvah to providing support for older adults through JFS’ Calling Connections program this past year, JFS and our community have been so fortunate to have Susanna’s smile, positivity and helping hands.”
A Leawood resident, Susanna has big plans after graduation including attending at Brandeis University in Boston. JFS holds a special place in her heart, she said, and she encourages others to consider volunteering for the organization.
“I would 100 percent recommend volunteering for JFS. It’s a really great way to work with a team of volunteers and staff who really care about what we’re doing. The volunteer experience is wonderful,” Susanna said.
“I think learning about how to give back as a teen can really set you up to find a way to continue that through life, and prioritize helping the community at a young age, which will make the world a better place as we grow up.”