Delaine Zody

Fresno, CA

"I set out to convince the first-graders how important it is to eat their fruits and vegetables."

I am one of 20 school resource chaplains who work through the Fresno Police Department. Two days a week, I work with first-graders at an inner city elementary school. I eat lunch with them, join them on the playground and read them stories in their classrooms to help them make better decisions as they continue through school.

After returning to Fresno from San Francisco, because I couldn’t find a job with a nonprofit after years teaching in an inner city school, I was at loose ends. What did I want to do with the rest of my life? What did God want me to do with the rest of my life?

At lunch at a local church, I sat with a man who is a chaplain in a neighboring school district. I was intrigued by what he did and wondered if Fresno had such a program. He said he thought I would be very good at doing this, but I laughed. I loved the concept, and believed someone should be doing it, but not me. Then I saw a notice about Fresno Police Department Chaplaincy. Again, I thought it was a good idea — for someone else. Then another notice caught my attention, only this time I saw the words “school chaplain,” and my interest was very piqued.

I read that there were chaplains in Fresno schools and a need for more. I could hear God prompting me to send in the application, but I really didn’t expect to hear back. First a phone call, then a meeting, then a 29-page application, another meeting. And silence. “Lord, if this is what You want me to do,” I said, “then You will make it happen; otherwise, fine.”

But then, the police office that does all background checks got a rush call for three chaplains. Within two weeks, I had my ID, my uniform and an assignment. I am now officially a Fresno Police Department School Resource Chaplain assigned to Columbia Elementary School. Chaplains support and guide the children in their school; we are not ordained clergy. Although the lunches throughout the school district are free due to the high incidence of poverty in Fresno, I noticed that the first graders were not eating the vegetables and throwing most of their lunches in the garbage.

I set out to convince them how important it is to eat their fruits and vegetables. After just a couple of weeks, more students are eating the vegetables and showing me that they have eaten them. They have written thank you letters and mention how I want them to eat better. And the local newspaper even did a story on the work I am doing with the children.

We older workers have so much experience and knowledge that should not be ignored, but rather put to work in communities, as there are so many needs.

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