For 18-year-old twin sisters Breanna and Rowan Tanner, the start of their senior year earlier this fall meant more than heading back to the classroom at Jefferson West High School. It also brought a return to their regular volunteer shift at Harvesters.
On Tuesday nights during the school year, the sisters, who share a passion for horses, hop in the car and drive from their home in Meriden, Kan., a small town located 20 miles north of Topeka, to the Harvesters warehouse.
“I like packing food for seniors,” Breanna says.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) boxes she and her sister pack are part of a national nutrition program that provides food for 619,000 seniors with incomes at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Line, approximately $15,301 for a senior living alone.
Breanna and Rowan got their start at Harvesters volunteering with their grandmother. Although grandma is no longer able to sort food donations, the habit of service stuck.
Their dedication already has added up to more than100-hours of service.
The teens prefer working in the warehouse to volunteering for a mobile distribution because it is temperature-controlled and includes tunes. They also enjoy working with Harvesters’ staff and getting to know the other regular volunteers.
Sometimes they get the giggles while sorting produce, especially the odd-shaped carrots and the crazy colored tomatoes. Sometimes they find themselves wearing a fruit character suit and posing for photos at Harvesters’ fundraising event, Feastival.
“We couldn’t see, we kept running into each other,” laughs Rowan, who wore the apple costume. And it was hard to walk: “I just waddled around like a penguin.”
“It’s so hot in those suits,” says Breanna, who was an orange for a night.
Asked if they are ready to don a fruit suit again soon, the sisters offer a split decision.
“They’re good sports,” says their mother, Heidi Hartner. “I think they know the impact of what they do. They’re not real loud about what they do, they just kind of quietly do it.”
Although Hartner works for Harvesters as Topeka Agency Services Manager, she rarely volunteers alongside her daughters, preferring to let them manage their schedules.
“It’s their thing,” she says. “They have embraced the commitment, and they know Tuesday is their Harvesters night, so to see the two of them coordinate that with each other, and do it on their own, has been rewarding.”