A cereal surprise
Twin brothers Luke and Jett Justin turned their love for cereal and giving back to the community into a multi-school cereal drive in Boca Raton, Florida.
The fifth-graders, now 11, have been volunteering at their local food pantry, Boca Helping Hands, for the past five years.
“We have been volunteering since we were seven,” says Luke. “We always noticed that there was a shortage of breakfast foods. We love cereal and the unique happiness that it gives people in the morning to start out their day in a nice positive way.”
Bill Harper, the director of food and warehouse operations at Boca Helping Hands remembers the day that the boys had the idea for a food drive. As they were preparing pantry bags to be handed out to those in need, they asked a simple question, ‘Where is all the cereal?’
At that moment, their cereal drive was born. That first year, the boys organized a cereal drive in their elementary school and collected nearly 500 boxes. But they didn’t stop there.
Luke talks about the inspiration for the cereal drive, in this audio clip.
“We thought the cereal drive had a lot of potential,” Jett says. “Once we knew we got 500 boxes of cereal from one school we wanted to grow it to help more people than ever before.”
Last year, thanks to the support and encouragement of their principal and student government teachers at Calusa Elementary School, the cereal drive expanded to four elementary schools and the boys, and their classmates, collected nearly 1,800 boxes.
Jett talks about the importance of compassion for the community, in this audio clip.
This year, the cereal drive ran from March 1 to 8, and seven schools participated – collecting more than 2,700 boxes of cereal.
To provide encouragement to their classmates, Luke and Jett reached out to General Mills asking if the company could provide some prizes for the classrooms that collected the most boxes. While this was not the first time the boys reached out to us, their compelling letter caught the attention of our Cereal team.
The team sent the twins some T-shirts. But had a much larger surprise in mind.
General Mills worked with the boys’ father, Eric Justin, and Boca Helping Hands, to set up an event to recognize the boys for being a force for good in their community.
So yesterday, March 12, the twins – along with more than 20 classmates and teachers – arrived at the food pantry to take photos with their more than 2,700 collected cereal boxes.
What they didn’t expect was that I would be there, to surprise the boys and their classmates with a donation of six pallets of our most popular cereals – more than 2,500 boxes of cereal, including Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Corn Chex and Rice Chex.
The boys were stunned. “We were amazed and completely shocked. We are really honored that General Mills helped us,” Jett says.
“I was shocked when the truck pulled out and the cereal was there,” adds Luke. “We doubled the amount of cereal within seconds of the truck pulling out. It was amazing.”
Greg Hazle, executive director of Boca Helping Hands, told me he’s impressed with the boys and their commitment to helping the community and organizing the cereal drive.
Listen to him talk about the Justin twins being “legends,” in this audio clip.
“A remarkable demonstration of the power of conviction,” Hazle says. “These boys have obviously learned that giving is better than receiving – and that this is a message worth sharing with their peers.”
Hazle noted that cereal is always in short supply at the pantry and that this drive is very beneficial to the community. “There are as many as 20,000 people that benefit from our pantry bag program. Anything that has to do with cereal anytime of the year is good.”
As for the future of the cereal drive, the boys have big plans.
“We move to middle school next year, so we hope to grow it to middle schools and elementary schools,” Jett says.
Hazle is confident that Luke and Jett can accomplish whatever they put their minds to. “I am still blown away by their commitment, not just to volunteering, but doing something to meet the needs of people. They’re my heroes.”
Editor’s note: Media can download two shorter audio clips of Luke and Jett Justin, and photos, from the March 12, 2019, event in Boca Raton, Florida, here.
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