Kindness Matters Service Award Winner

Canned Goods Make Great Sculptures

Leos envision project that brings people together

The New Jersey Visionary Cyber Leo Club is one of the 2021 Kindness Matters Service Award winners. Read more stories and check out a list of all the winners here

Group of teens working on sculpture of canned goods.Your mother always told you not to play with your food. But today’s youth clearly haven’t gotten that message. In late 2019, Leos in New Jersey put a twist on an established service project by tasking participants to not just donate food, but to make art with it.

The New Jersey Visionary Cyber Leo Club based in Edison, New Jersey, had a vision to bring together like-minded local organizations to achieve the goal of providing nutritious food for all members of their community – all while encouraging young people in the visual arts.

Leos advertised to students in the community, asking them to collect food and bring it to the Edison, New Jersey, municipal council chambers where the sculpture competition would take place.

Local students then formed teams of two to six (ranging in ages from kindergarten to college students) and used the food donations to assembleStack of waters with Lions Clubs International Logo sculptures. There was no theme, just the collective goal of working together to do something unique and for a good cause.

“[They could build] anything they wanted to bring to life. Our main focus was the actual teamwork aspect of it,” says current leadership chairperson Ojas Chitnis. “We had all sorts of things, one of them was a football field, one group made an octopus, there were all sorts of things that revolved mostly around animals or sports.”

The sculptures remained on display for two weeks until the council’s next meeting at which the winners were recognized. The food was then delivered to three different area food pantries.

The project brought together Lions, Leos, and other community groups to address a cause in a truly collaborative and fun way. In fact, one of the student organizations they partnered with, the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), was so inspired by the project that they created the “Together We Can” initiative, a campaign to bring awareness to the issue of hunger and to promote student collaboration.

teens creating sculptures from canned goods.As it turned out, the idea seemed to be especially prescient.

“During the pandemic we saw that a lot of our Leos and Lions were struggling so much,” says Chitnis. “And in retrospect, that theme of bringing people together was so important.”

In this way, it seems the Leos are living up to their name. While they inherited the name from their sponsoring club, they are embracing their role as visionaries.

“We want to be the future of service,” says Chitnis. “We are an older district, but we want to be the next wave in service.”