Marcus “Marco” Halsey offers the youth of North Lawndale “a hug and an opportunity” with Summer Meals.
Halsey is the CEO and Founder of Generating Adolescent Productivity (G.A.P.), a Benevolence Foundation located in the B.T. Little Center in Chicago’s North Lawndale community.
“As a Benevolence Foundation, we are about giving back to the community,” said Halsey.
The G.A.P. Foundation started out as a concept of Halsey’s.
Growing up in North Lawndale, Halsey became aware of how under-served the area is and that there are a lot of under-privileged youth that reside there.
“I participated in a lot of things that I didn’t have to. Instead of my environment becoming a part of me; I became a part of my environment,” said Halsey.
Halsey calls this period of his life “non-productive”.
“You have a lot of young people in this community and in many other communities around the country that become a part of the negative things that they see, instead of being productive people,” said Halsey.
Halsey’s concept materialized on December 8, 2015 with the creation of the G.A.P. Foundation. G.A.P. shows youth that there are better ways to do things.
“I explain it to them, I did this and I did it the wrong way, now I get it – You don’t have to take that path,” said Halsey.
G.A.P. is not funded by grants. It is a registered not-for-profit 501(c)(3), organization sustained by donations and community support. Volunteers help Halsey run the Foundation.
“None of our volunteers get paid. It is a blessing to have people consistently willing to volunteer because our youth need consistency,” said Halsey.
In its first year, the Foundation served meals to kids in the summer on a tight budget that was strictly out of pocket. This is the first year the Foundation is utilizing the Summer Meals Program as a Summer Meals site under Food Service Professionals (FSP).
FSP is under the Archdioceses umbrella, which has over 200 Summer Meals sites this year. FSP orders prepared meals from a vendor. The vendor delivers meals to sites daily. FSP provides training in food handling, meal count sheets, posters, and anything else the site may need. During the summer, FSP provides cold meals consisting of vegetables, fruits, and real fruit juice to its sites.
“The kids really enjoy the meals and the meals are always healthy. Just the other day they went crazy over the turkey and swiss on a croissant,” said Halsey.
The G.A.P. Foundation is open in the Summer, Monday through Friday from 9AM-2PM. Through the Summer Meals Program G.A.P. serves free breakfast and lunch to kids 18 and under. On Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday breakfast is served from 9:30AM-10:30AM. On Tuesday Breakfast is served from 9:00AM – 10:00AM. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday lunch is served from 12:30PM – 1:30PM. On Wednesday lunch is served from 1:30PM – 2:30PM.
Along with Summer Meals, Halsey provides an outlet for kids to experience life outside of North Lawndale. Through the Foundation’s Safe Summer Program, Halsey fills a bus with kids to go on a field trip once a week.
“We do field trips because a lot these young people don’t get out of North Lawndale, so they don’t get a chance to see anything different. We are showing them better than we can tell them,” expressed Halsey.
Halsey has taken kids to Guaranteed Rate Field, peace rallies, picnic’s in the park, the Brookfield Zoo and has an Apple trip planned where kids will learn about iMovie’s and Garage Band.
During the school year G.A.P. is open two days a week with their After-School Meals program. Dinner is served. Youth get homework help and engage in a variety of programs designed to effect positive change in their lives. G.A.P. programs teach youth about being productive citizens through leadership, sound decision making, job skills, and communication skills. Halsey often invites guest speakers to come and share their life experiences.
“I have speakers come in that have been through something. There are so many different stories our youth can hear to help them make better decisions when they run into a situation.”
In helping youth see a better way through his Foundation Halsey chooses not to focus on the challenges he faces in his work but sees the opportunity.
“I don’t sweat the small stuff. Everything is plus 1 and that’s the only way the math adds up to me,” explained Halsey.
When asked what the key is to G.A.P.’s success Halsey responded, “Love. I couldn’t do any of this without our volunteers, reaching out giving our kids a hug and an opportunity.”