By Rachel Kytonen
Atlantis, 6, has been New Pathway’s Box City girl since June 2009, as her face has been used in all the promotional materials since that time and has made appearances on behalf of the event.
Atlantis and her mother, Jennifer Ryan, became involved with New Pathways in September 2008, and have been volunteering with the organization ever since.
New Pathways is a non-profit agency that serves at-risk families with children from Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties. It offers programs through its services at the Day Center in Cambridge and its Interfaith Hospitality Network.
After spending the day at the Family Day Center, families either drive or are driven to the designated church for the week. IHN Cambridge Site collaborates with area churches and hundreds of volunteers who provide hospitality in the form of home-cooked dinners, added support system, and private sleeping rooms. In the morning, the families arrive back at the Family Day Center to begin a new day of work, schooling, or work on their program goals.
Jennifer has been volunteering her time for Box City since it held its first event in Cambridge in October of 2009. Jennifer said Carlson Photography in Cambridge donated the photo shoot and photo of Atlantis in 2009.
“The photographer from Carlson Studio and I asked Atlantis how she would feel if we didn’t have a home,” Jennifer explained. “He took the picture at the perfect moment and captured her exact thoughts. At the time of the photo shoot, we were volunteering two to three nights a week by sleeping at the churches with their families and children through the Interfaith Hospitality Network.”
Besides being the Box City girl in the promotional materials, Jennifer and Atlantis also have public speaking engagements where they promote New Pathways and Box City.
“I raised Atlantis to realize that you should give a hand to people when you can, and not to expect anything in return,” Jennifer said. “I’ve lived in Isanti County since I was 11, and have been volunteering since I was a teenager. Volunteering is something that’s very important to my family.”
Jennifer said she is very proud of the volunteer spirit she sees in her daughter.
“Atlantis is very helpful, a great volunteer, and enjoys meeting with the kids from the Interfaith Hospitality Network, and making them feel welcome,” Jennifer said. “She’s really going to make an impact on this community, or where ever she lives. She’s very caring, and passionate about helping others.”
Atlantis has also met a few celebrities since becoming the Box City girl, including Brent Wilcox at KQRS/Love. KQRS has been a repeat sponsor of the Box City events.
Atlantis also had a twin doll made of her through twinndoll.com. The doll was at last year’s Box City event, and Jennifer explained people took pictures with Atlantis and the doll.
Besides Atlantis, her twin brother Zavier aka “Bubba,” and little brother Caden aka “Mr. Peanut,” and other brother Gage, have also volunteered with Box City events.
Gage slept in a cardboard coffin during the first Box City event in Cambridge, and explained the coffin was made to represent the deaths that occur in the harsh Minnesota winters.
Jennifer said volunteering for New Pathways is a very rewarding experience.
“Knowing you’re making a difference in someone’s life is a very rewarding feeling, and it’s a good feeling knowing you are putting a smile on someone’s face,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer said fundraising efforts are already underway for this year’s Box City event set for Oct. 15 at the Isanti County Fairgrounds in Cambridge. She said Box City is a worthy cause for people to support.
“Despite still being a rural area, we still have people in crisis,” Jennifer said. “We have families still losing their jobs, homes, and end up sleeping in cars.”
For more information on New Pathways call 763-691-0121, visit www.newpathwaysmn.com/index.html or you can find them on Facebook.