Leota Ester Advocates for Basic Needs
Living with intention
“When I turned 80, I decided I would make every single year count,” Leota Ester likes to say. But after learning of her long history of activism, it’s clear she didn’t wait until she turned 80.
Taking on new challenges is common for this Appleton, WI, resident. Just before her 60th birthday, for example, Ester, a longtime Bread for the World member and activist, began a temporary employment agency. During the year she cared for her late husband as he struggled with Alzheimer’s, she started writing poetry. When she turned 80, she spent 10 months traveling in Europe—to test herself, she says—and wrote a blog detailing her experiences in poetry and prose.
This mother of three is also passionate about telling people that healthy beginnings create the citizens our country and world needs. She grew up on a farm in Kansas during the Great Depression. Her family didn’t have much money, she says, but they were never hungry.
“We ate garden vegetables, canned fruit, eggs, homemade bread, and applesauce,” she recalls. “Those days are gone, but not our parents’ knowledge that healthy food is a basic need.”
Those values inform all Ester’s activities, particularly her advocacy work with Bread for the World. She serves on Bread’s Development Committee, but claims her role in their gatherings is of a listener. Her activism, however, proves otherwise.
“I insert Bread for the World fairly easily into conversations,” she admits. Ester also talks about Bread in the newspaper column she writes for her local newspaper, the Post-Crescent. And last summer, she decided to join Bread President David Beckmann and leaders from 40 faith traditions in fasting for four weeks.
Ester fasted alone one day a week, but helped call attention to hunger by writing about the experience in an email message to Bread members and in her newspaper column. During the fast, Ester says she thought a lot about how hungry people can function day after day. How can they learn and work if gnawing hunger is always with them?
“The more people who are involved in sharing responsibility for those who do not have enough, the better,” she says. “It’s important to give to charity. But Bread for the World has a special role to play in bringing many together to influence decisions. We see the results with programs providing food for pregnant moms and babies.”
This summer, Ester and three other generous Bread members provided a challenge match—matching donations dollar for dollar up to $105,000. Their challenge match raised more than $120,000. We are grateful to her and to all Bread members who participated in the campaign, which raised a total of $225,000 overall—a significant boost to Bread’s efforts to secure a healthy beginning for everyone.