Food For Kids thanks community, expands to more schools
When Saint Stephens United Church of Christ assumed administration of Merrill’s Food For Kids program, it was a dream … to expand the program to include more schools, and one day, all schools in the greater Merrill area, so that no kid would ever go hungry. While the entire dream hasn’t yet come to fruition, Food For Kids is celebrating the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year by expanding the program to include two more schools: Maple Grove and Pine River School for Young Learners. That brings the total number of schools to be served this year to six, to also include Washington, Kate Goodrich, Jefferson, and Trinity Lutheran schools, all of which participated in the program previously.
Food For Kids is a community outreach program, sponsored by Saint Stephens United Church of Christ, that provides weekend food for those grade school children who qualify for free and reduced price lunches and who agree to participate in Food For Kids. During the last school year, 153 grade school children were served. The total cost for the purchase of food was approximately $28,000. Volunteers from Saint Stephens purchase and store food and volunteers from First Presbyterian, Our Saviour’s, Calvary Lutheran, and Saint Stephens churches bag and distribute it to the participating schools. With the addition of two more schools, organizers are estimating that this school year’s needs will require funding of $28,000-$35,000.
Food For Kids attributes the support of the Merrill community to the decision to expand the program this year, stepping out in faith that they will get the funding needed to sustain the program based on the outpouring of community support received thus far.
“It’s been incredible,” Beth Houle, Coordinator and spokesperson for the Food For Kids program says. “Every week we get donations from individuals who believe that we, as a community, can take on this call to feed the hungry kids within our own community. And then we get great organizations like Rosco’s Ride, the Noon Optimists, Fill the Gazebo, the Salvation Army, Saint Stephens, the Sawmill Brewery, the Merrill 600 Women’s Bowling Club, St. Paul’s Church in Hamburg Sunday School kids, and so many more that organize awesome fundraisers to help us increase awareness of the issue and generate funds to pay for the food. Businesses have also stepped forward to sponsor other fundraisers – like Chips Hamburgers and Geiss Meat Service who co-sponsored our recent brat fry to raise funds for the coming school year. And we get funds from businesses like Church Mutual who donate their casual Friday funds to Food For Kids and foundations like the CM Cares Foundation. And then area churches like Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church and Journey Church and Bible Presbyterian regularly send us gift cards for Sam’s Club or cash donations to help us purchase food for the kids.
“It’s incredible and amazing to see the community step forward in this way to help us feed the kids in our community!” Houle continues.
“And you know, the really amazing thing about this program,” Houle elaborates. “Every single dollar donated goes to buy food for kids. Not one single cent of donations pays for a piece of paper or a postage stamp or anyone’s salary. All of that is completely covered by Saint Stephens United Church of Christ as the sponsoring organization, so that Food For Kids could focus on raising the money to feed the kids.”
As Food For Kids enters into the 2018-2019 program year, Houle is asking the community to keep on supporting Food For Kids.
“Several fundraisers are already planned and in the works, and we hope the community will come out to support them in records numbers,” Houle says.
Saint Stephens is holding a Treasure Sale in the church basement at 903 E. 2nd St. in Merrill Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21 and 22, from 1-7 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, the sale is open to the public, and all proceeds will go to Food For Kids.
Then on Tuesday, Oct. 16, the Optimist Club is having their 2nd Annual Empty Bowls Pay It 4-Ward Pasta Dinner from 4:30-7:00 at Les & Jim’s Lincoln Lanes in Merrill, and they have once again so generously designated Food For Kids as the recipient of all of the proceeds from this event.
“Truly, the community support is amazing,” Houle says. “Any individuals or organizations who want to get involved or make a donation are welcomed. We couldn’t do this without all of you. For more information, definitely check out our website at www.FoodForKidsMerrill.org or call Tina at Saint Stephens at 715-536-7322 and she can fill you in on anything you need to know.”
“And I want to add a huge thank you,” Houle says. “Thank you to the Merrill community for everything they’ve done to support Food For Kids and for your continued support. We really could not do this without you.”