One Nercon Family’s “Thoughtful 30” Food Drive Multiplies with a Dash of Love, Kindness and Inspiration from Kids
December 16, 2021
Beckham and Hudson Baumhardt, ages 4 and 7 respectively, are just a couple of ordinary boys growing up in Wisconsin. But being home-schooled by their mother, Alyssa, who left her job as a kindergarten teacher amid the pandemic has turned these boys into extraordinary human beings at an early age thanks to an inspiring lesson about the short days and long nights of winter in Wisconsin—and resulted in more than 1,000 food items getting donated to a local food pantry as well.
“In the month of November, we talked about the changing of the seasons,” Alyssa explained. “The days are shorter and the nights are longer. I explained how that makes it so important for us to let our light shine within ourselves, family, neighbors and our community by doing something good for others.”
Proud father and Nercon employee, Mark Baumhardt, added that the family has conversations with the boys about how blessed and grateful they are for all the gifts in their lives. “Others are not so lucky and are hurting and in need.”
To help the two young boys understand what that might look like, Mark and Alyssa shared the story about a family member who grew up in poverty.
“The boys have somebody really special in their lives who grew up in poverty and had to rely on food stamps,” Alyssa explained. “They didn't have a food pantry back then to help her out like we do today. Telling this story to the boys helped personalize it and give them a bigger heart for people in similar circumstances.”
And so, the “Thoughtful 30” food drive was born. Initially dreamed up as simply one family’s home-schooling project to donate 30 food items in 30 days in November, the “Thoughtful 30” quickly grew to much, much more as the boys’ infectious empathy and sense of charity caught fire in the community.
“It was something that started out really small but grew very quickly,” Mark explained. “The original plan was that the boys would put one item in a donation box each day during the month of November.”
But the boys implored their parents to help them collect more than just 30 items by asking others in their family to help them with their efforts by doing the same. So, Mark sent out an email to the immediate members of their families. Two grandmothers and a social media account later, the little philanthropists had regional efforts in Wisconsin mirroring their own.
With momentum under their angel wings, Mark thought there was one more family he wanted to approach for help—his Nercon family. He started with talking to Vice President of Human Resources, Steve Anklam, who was inspired to provide company support and communications for the efforts. And just like wildfire, news spread to the company’s Oconto office where additional donations were requested and received in droves.
When asked how many food donations in total were secured, 7-year-old Hudson piped up with enthusiasm to announce the total. “One thousand, one hundred and sixteen,” he reported, beaming with pride. All 1,116 items were stored in the Baumhardt’s basement until Dec. 8 when the family—well, Mark!—toted all of them upstairs in boxes and placed them into three vehicles which were then driven to the Dale Food Pantry where they were received with gratitude.
“The director of the Food Pantry took us all on a tour when we arrived and told the boys that the pantry benefits 80-150 families each week,” Alyssa said.
Beckham, the younger of the two boys, said that helping a lot of families was his favorite thing about the whole project. Hudson then showed a picture of a heart he made that was outlined in a series of dots starting with one large dot. “This was Hudson’s representation of our project,” Alyssa explained. “The dots symbolize how one act of kindness can lead to many others. In the end, the heart connects, and the feelings of love and kindness come back to you like a boomerang. It’s a very powerful visual to help teach how and why we share love and kindness.”
The Baumhardts believe there are many opportunities to help teach kids about empathy every day.
“One of our big things when we decided to expand this was to give other families an easy opportunity to get their kids involved, too,” Alyssa explained. “Start small. Encourage them and provide opportunities for kids to start thinking about others with family first and then shift to neighbors. It's like planting a seed; we very carefully planted a seed in their brains and then their hearts just took off with it.”
At just seven precious years old, Hudson’s heart definitely “took off” with the project, announcing that his favorite thing about the project was writing thank-yous to all who helped them reach their goals, proudly holding up an example of the thank-yous.
“During writing workshop, the boys wrote thank-you letters to everyone we know who donated. Later in the week, we counted the food items as a family,” Alyssa said.
Will the Baumhardts be back for a second year with the Thoughtful 30?
“We will definitely do it again next year and will definitely have bigger goals,” Alyssa said. “Love and kindness have no end; when you show it, it transcends everything.