For retired Navy Officer Lindsey Lester-Brutscher, service to her country is in her blood—her father enlisted in the Army Air Corps at 17 and retired as an Air Force colonel and her brother is a retired Army colonel.
Raised in a middle-class family, hunger was not top of mind. As an adult, she took a class focused on social justice issues and, although hunger was not a specific topic of the class, poverty and food deserts were. The seed was planted in an already caring heart.
Her Navy career included serving as an intelligence office and later as a human resources officer and was followed by a brief foray into teaching, including teaching Naval Junior ROTC (NJROTC) at a St. Louis high school. A second career of civilian federal service followed, including serving as director of the U.S. National Support Element Valencia on a Spanish Army base outside Valencia, Spain.
It was during her military career that Lindsey's support of hunger relief began. As a military member, she contributed to the Combined Federal Campaign—the workplace giving program of the U.S. federal government.
"I would receive a thick pamphlet that listed a wide range of organizations to support and I would say to myself, 'Who do I want to donate to in the local area?'" Lindsey said.
Lindsey connected with St. Louis Area Foodbank, a Feeding America network member, learning not only about hunger in her community but also the national hunger relief efforts of Feeding America.
The power of a meal was reinforced later as an NJROTC instructor in a low-income school, where she saw hunger firsthand in her students.
"Hey, Commander!" the kids would say, knowing she had an extra sandwich or two to share or a protein bar from a stash she kept in her desk drawer. "I wanted to make sure they ate something," Lindsey said. "I was seeing it every day." She continued, "That experience reinforced my support for organizations like [Feeding America]. My heart hurts for kids who are hungry."
Lindsey began donating to Feeding America on a regular basis. Later, it was her move outside of the U.S. that triggered her legacy gift to our organization.
"I needed to update my will before moving to Spain," she said. "That's the time at which I put on paper something I was thinking about. I wanted to give one final donation to organizations that I had been supporting who fight battles that I think are really important."
With Lindsey's commitment of a planned gift to support hunger relief in the future through Feeding America, she became a member of the van Hengel Society, which honors individuals who make legacy gifts, including bequests and charitable gift annuities, in support of Feeding America. The van Hengel Society is named for John van Hengel, the founder of the modern food bank movement.
"I hope that other people like me who are not wealthy people but are financially secure consider leaving a legacy gift," Lindsey said. "I planned my retirement. I encourage people to ask, 'Why not leave some of that to meaningful charities?' Even a few percentage points can benefit a charity so much."
We at Feeding America are inspired by Lindsey's lifelong support of community and country and are honored to have her as a fellow comrade in the fight to end hunger. Her story is a testament to how learning, connection and support of causes one holds dear can have meaningful impact both now and into the future.