“Who here knows what edamame is?” Will Lourcey asks a rapt audience of schoolchildren. Confronted with mostly blank looks, the young Texan, just 13 years old himself, becomes teacher for a moment and explains some of the vegetable’s virtues. It’s popular in Asia, he tells them, and it’s a good source of protein.
“Who wants to try some?” Will implores. “Not me,” replies one reluctant audience member.
From another corner, though, emerges a murmur of acquiescence. To which Will adds: “I think everyone should try some. It’s delicious!”
Will’s presence among the kids of Cavile Place, an economically deprived area in the eastern reaches of Fort Worth, Texas, has become a regular feature. He does so with a purpose: Since the tender age of 7, Will has been focused on feeding the hungry. It all started when he saw a man on a street corner begging for food, and he decided he wanted to do something about it.
With the help of his parents – Julie, a teacher, and Bill, a financial adviser – he established the charity Friends Reaching Our Goals, or FROGs. He named the organization himself, Ms. Lourcey says, and designed FROGs with a dual purpose: to inspire youths to carry out service work in their communities and to feed those at risk of going hungry.
That was October 2010. Since then, he has helped provide more than 500,000 meals to those in need. He raises funds, he plans, he ropes in friends, and more.
Tonight he is serving Asian-themed dishes as part of the monthly FROGs Dinner Club, a central event. Each time, Will and his fellow volunteers aim to serve a free, fresh meal with the twist that the recipients be introduced to new foods and healthier options. This go-round, honey-seared chicken is dished up with brown or white rice alongside Vietnamese chicken salad rolls. And edamame. None of them have tried it before, Ms. Lourcey muses, and they seem to like it.
“When I was 7, I was riding home from a Little League baseball game when I saw a man on a street corner who held a sign that said, ‘Need Meal,’ ” Will elaborates. “And it made me sad to realize that there are people in my community who didn’t have enough food to eat. So I started FROGs. Our motto is to have fun while helping others.”
The Dinner Club, he says, is about 2 years old and is one of the organization’s latest activities. “We do it at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth,” he notes. Not only does FROGs serve a healthy meal to the kids there, but it also “involve[s] them in a service project because we believe we all have the ability to help others.”
Will, who would one day like to join the US Foreign Service, says he always tries to make time for his charity work amid a crammed schedule of school and extracurricular activities like sports. With an assist from his mom, he is running only slightly behind schedule tonight, having rushed straight from school for the 5:30 p.m. start time.
“People often tell us we’ve done a good job with Will,” Lourcey says. “We wish we could take credit for Will’s heart to help others but can’t. Will has actually done a good job with us. It’s he who has inspired us to serve in the community and make a positive impact.”
As Will finishes his exposition on edamame, he turns to the service activity associated with this night’s meal: The children are asked to decorate gift bags with drawings showing their interpretations of happiness, peace, and hope. At a later date, the bags are to be filled with shelf-stable food that, Will explains, will be distributed to homeless people in San Francisco. He was to travel there as part of his work with the Jefferson Awards Foundation, which this year honored him for his efforts to fight hunger and poverty.
Through the foundation’s Score on Hunger national campaign, Will’s efforts have helped amass $852,000 worth of food items for hunger-fighting charities, according to the foundation website.
“Will’s determination to provide meals for those in need is nothing short of remarkable,” says Hillary Schafer, executive director of the Jefferson Awards Foundation, in an email. “To date, his LEAD360 project Score on Hunger has aggregated over 250,000 meals and inspired young people across the country to engage their own communities. His passion for service and ability to deliver results is exactly what the Jefferson Awards Foundation trains young people to achieve.”