History of A FULL SUMMER

AFS founders, Becky Liner, Tracy Ippolito, and Laurye Messer

In 2011, Laurye Messer attended a community meal assembly at Godby High School. The event was so much fun that she wanted to do it again. She waited for word of a date to volunteer in 2012, but nothing was planned. So, Laurye met with her good friend, Tracy Ippolito, and pitched the idea that the two of them could coordinate a meal assembly aimed at helping local food insecure children. A partnership was born.

Laurye’s church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, was having a strategic planning project in the fall of 2012. She and Tracy presented their meal assembly plan as an initiative for the church to consider. St. John’s approved the initiative and agreed to host the meal assembly. The only catch was it had to occur when the church fellowship hall was available. The first Saturday in June of 2013 was the earlier available date, so Laurye and Tracy accepted it and started planning.

The first thing that needed to be done was to choose a name for the meal assembly and since it was scheduled to happen at the beginning of the summer, they decided to associate the name with summer. A FULL SUMMER was chosen because most people associate a “full” summer with a time of activity. People take vacation, go to camp, and visit family during a full summer. Naming the meal assembly A FULL SUMMER sought to associate being full with being fed. We wanted every child to literally be “full” during the summer. God works in strange ways because after the date and the name of the event were chosen, we discovered that children have an increased need for food during the summer months. That’s because free and reduced priced meals at school provide the only reliable source of food for many children and when school is out, that source is not available.

The next thing that needed to be done was to raise money. That’s when Laurye’s good friend, Maye Walker, a member of First Baptist Church of Tallahassee, introduced her to their pastor. As Laurye explained how the meal assembly would work, he started smiling. That’s because a member of the congregation had talked to him about the same idea. That member was Becky Liner who had attended a meal assembly event with First Baptist’s Youth in Chicago. So, Laurye and Tracy met Becky and the rest is history. That first year, St. John’s Episcopal Church and First Baptist Church of Tallahassee along with Leon County Schools and Second Harvest of the Big Bend all partnered to put on A FULL SUMMER. There are now also over 300 people who volunteer from churches, law firms, businesses, and clubs that come together every year to raise funds and assemble meals for food insecure children. Covid-19 stopped us from assembling meals last year and it will prevent our traditional meal assembly this year, but we’ll still be helping children by raising funds for school food pantries.

Since that first assembly almost nine years ago at St. John’s Episcopal Church, A FULL SUMMER has assembled meals at Lincoln High School, Rickards High School, and for the last few years at Godby High School.  In addition to assembling meals, A FULL SUMMER raises money to sponsor food pantries at local schools.  A FULL SUMMER currently sponsors 6 pantries in Leon County Schools, thanks to its amazing group of generous and committed volunteers.

A FULL SUMMER is not extraordinary.  As a matter of fact, the people who coordinate it and the people who volunteer and contribute monetarily are ordinary members of our community.  We’re just a group of people who care about our children.  We saw a problem and we’re working together to do something about it.