VISTA Spotlight: Annabelle Leskinen
“Each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world.”
– Fred Rogers
Colonel’s Cupboard Education Specialist
Annabelle Leskinen has always had a passion for serving communities. Even as a kid, she dedicated her time to volunteering with multiple organizations, including National Awareness of Mental Illness, Lupus Foundation, American Youth Soccer Organization, and much more.
She studied Nutrition with a concentration in Food Management and a minor in Public Health while attending the University of Southern Indiana. Leskinen strives to collaborate with organizations that promote strength and wellness within communities.
Her KyCC VISTA host site is the Colonel’s Cupboard at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). This is a food pantry that provides basic necessities to all EKU students in need. The Cupboard has food, toiletries items, and additional contact information for local resources all at no cost. There is also a program within Colonel’s Cupboard called Closet Transform. The program allows students to “shop” around for clothes. “We want to support our students so that they can succeed during their time at University,” Leskinen said.
She highlighted how the Cupboard traditionally hosts an annual food drive to raise awareness of Hunger and Homelessness. Due to COVID-19, the pantry was unable to host this event. As an alternative, Leskinen organized a monetary drive. “To encourage a good turnout and make it fun, I created a competition,” she explained. “Departments at EKU competed to see which group can raise the most donors. I wanted to focus more on donors than donations because the more donors we have the more people are acknowledging the issues with food insecurity and homelessness.”
According to Leskinen, the event went above all expectations set, raising over $10,000 dollars for the cause. There were over 300 donors who contributed to supporting its mission. All the proceeds went directly to the Cupboard, expanding its programs and services to best meet student needs.
“Using services like a food pantry can be a vulnerable moment for a person,” she shared. “It is important to remind people just how strong and valuable they are. As human beings, we need to support one another.”
Leskinen concluded with a quote from Fred Rogers: “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors.”