Jenni’s work to feed youngsters is recognised
It’s people like Jenni Williams who make Te Awamutu a better place to live.
Jenni was among 15 Waikato people to win an award for contribution to the community at the New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Awards in Hamilton.
The awards aim to identify and reward people doing extraordinary things in their local communities.
Each winner is in the running to be named Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year in February.
Jenni is the owner of Te Awamutu cafe´ Empire Espresso.
For the last year the cafe´ has run a pay-it-forward initiative where a $6 donation buys lunch for a hungry student.
The lunches are made in Te Awamutu and delivered to local primary schools and Melville High School.
Jenni came up with the idea after her son’s lunch was stolen at school.
Rather than choosing someone to blame, Jenni thought of a practical solution.
The programme has expanded rapidly and is now giving out about 500 free lunches every term.
The Baptist Church now donates its time and kitchen facilities, and local businesses have also donated money to the cause. The initiative has received praise from children’s rights organisation Unicef and been featured on TVNZ’s Good Sorts.
Jenni says she was humbled to be acknowledged alongside 14 other local recipients.
“I was totally shocked when I found out, but I am grateful for the recognition,” she says.
Jenni thanks the team of people who contribute to the initiative — Empire Espresso head chef Lylie Mallek, volunteers Leila Dexter and Claire Lincoln and the people and businesses who give their time, money and support.
Pirongia man Steve Thackray was also named a Local Hero winner for his contribution to the Ngaruawahia community, where he is principal of Waipa Primary School.
During his 15 years with the school, Steve has cultivated an educational environment that has changed the lives of thousands in the community.
While managing the low decile school, Steve has provided students with access to extensive resources, such as their own gym.
He also personally provides coaching, mentoring and counselling.
Empire Espresso owner Jenni Williams has been recognised at the New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Awards.