In 2021 we completed our third year of summer lunches for children. Each year has been a completely different wild ride, but the one thing that has stayed the constant is our unwavering support from the community. Whether it has been monetary support, sharing of time and talent or just spreading the word about our program we continue to grow. We not only grow in the number of children we feed, but each of us volunteers grow as we receive far more then we could possibly give.
The first day of lunches was Monday, May 24 with children in the area covered by Cardinal School District. On Friday, June 4 we added in our Newbury students. We then started covering the area covered by Berkshire Schools and Claridon that is located in the Chardon School District on Friday, June 11.
Slowly easing into the lunch program sounded easy. The ceiling in the Claridon Congregational Church had other things in mind though. On Thursday evening, June 10 I received a phone call that the ceiling had fallen down in the sanctuary of the church. Along with the wooden ceiling also came down the insulation. Fortunately, no one was there at the time, unfortunately we would not have a place to make lunches in the morning.
The saying it takes a village to raise the children is correct. The first stop after stopping at the church was Capp’s Pizza in Claridon. I asked them if they had the supplies and the man power to make enough pizza for 120 children for the following morning at 11. They had enough pizza dough and a person coming in early and supplied us with pizza.
Next stop, Theresa Warner’s home to ask her if we could use the Claridon Town Hall in the morning. It was available. She also gave me disposable gloves to use for the pizza and brown bags to put the lunches in.
Fortunately, earlier on Thursday I had picked up individual juice bottles and had not dropped them off at the church. Therefore, we had drinks. Walmart is open late and I was able to purchase a case of bananas, granola bars and foil to wrap the pizza in.
Lunch was out the door on Friday morning without missing a beat. Well at least as far as the kids enjoying lunch were concerned.
Where would we cook lunches on Monday and the near future? The Burton Legion Post offered us their kitchen but the stove and oven space were small. Before taking them up on their offer I contacted Berkshire Schools to see if we could use one of their kitchens beginning Monday. Without hesitation they said yes. I chose to use Ledgemont Elementary because Julie Sollars, one of our constant volunteers since the beginning of this endeavor, has worked in that kitchen for over 20 years. She would know the ins and outs and make our life easier.
Early Friday morning on July 16 I received the phone call that there was not electricity at Ledgemont Elementary. Again, we are very flexible people. LuAnn Burger was able to contact a Montville Township Trustee and our new plan was packing bagged lunches at the Montville Community Center.
On our last day of lunches was Friday, August 13th. Pizza has been our last of lunches go to food. We would be at the Montville Community Center for this last day to pack lunch as employees had returned to Ledgemont School to get ready for the start of the school year. Capp’s Pizza in Leroy this time agreed to make pizza for us and deliver them to us by 11 in the morning.
Now I was feeling pretty organized for this occasion until 11 o’clock that morning rolled around and I suddenly had a sinking feeling that I had ordered them for the following Friday the 20th. I called Capp’s and my sinking feeling was correct.
Capp’s in Claridon came through for us when the ceiling fell in. Today, the wonderful individuals of Capp’s in Leroy fixed my error by making 11 sheet pizzas at the last minute and delivering them to us in less than an hour! I cannot say thank you to these two restaurants enough.
But summer was not all craziness. Blessings by far exceeded those few days of being flexible.
Earlier this year a local school did a cereal drive. Our lunch program received a small percentage of all the boxes of cereal they collected. That small percentage though was enough for each child to receive their own box of cereal.
The students of Southington School District were the last students fortunate enough to have Mr. Tom Pokorny as a school teacher. Sadly, he passed away from cancer this past spring. His amazing students though did a food drive in his honor. We were the recipients of their hard work and generous donations. We kept a small portion of the canned goods to use for our lunches. The rest of the canned and boxed food items were divided up and delivered to our families.
One of the things I am proud to say is that we happily work together with other nonprofit organizations. The local food pantries throughout the summer would have an abundance of food. The food ranged from cheese, meat, canned goods, boxed items and produce. They shared these items with us and we used these food items in our lunches. This significantly reduced the cost of the food we needed to purchase.
During the summer we sent home scavenger hunts, crafts and “Surprises”! In July we received a donation of books for the children from Women United of United Way Services of Geauga County. Elaine and her husband Jerry picked up the books and took them home. With a list of all the children’s names and ages they sorted, stacked and bagged up the books. They then brought them to Ledgemont where we delivered them to the children along with their lunch.
Before summer lunches even began, Kok Leffell on behalf of Thompson Township Trustees contacted me about a grant he wanted to write for us. He filled out the information for the grant which would raise awareness of recycling for our children.
Thompson Trustees received the Gotta Go Green grant from Geauga Trumbull Solid Waste Management District. With this money t-shirts were purchased for each child in the lunch program. They also received a recycled tire bookmark.
The trustees did not stop there. They received a grant from NOPEC in which they were able to purchase handouts that included activities for the children.
Finally, the trustees worked with Geauga County Public Library Foundation on this recycling project. Each child received multiple pieces of recycled library materials. The foundation also provided reusable grocery bags to put all the wonderful items in.
Our lunch program is 100% volunteer driven. Our volunteers give their time and talent. They also use their own vehicles to deliver lunches sometimes on their way home and others deliver lunches completely out of the way. As I said earlier, we receive far more then we give.
Volunteers are the backbone of this program. This year we had a new group of volunteers, individuals from Solid Rock LLC. These individuals made lunches, packed lunches, took out the garbage, delivered lunches, you name it they did it! It was a huge blessing for us when Laura called and asked if they could come and help. Of course, I said sure! All of us were blessed to meet and work with these new to us volunteers!
In closing, I would like to thank you. Without your support we would not have been able to provide over 25,000 lunches to children these past three years. As you will notice on the next page, we spent more money than we collected this year. I never worried about it, as we had a carryover of money from 2020. As we look to 2022, we will have enough money to begin the program but not sustain us through the summer. Next year I hope you will continue to support us in our endeavor of feeding our children.