RIMERSBURG – A growing need in the Union area to help disadvantaged children make it through the weekend without going to bed hungry has prompted a number of local volunteers to step up with a new program.
The Blessing Kids Project started off last school year by helping to provide supplemental food assistance over the weekend for students at Rimersburg Head Start and Pre-K Counts in Sligo. It has expanded this school year to adding dozens of children at Sligo Elementary School.
One of the organizers, Cathy Carmichael, said the idea originated in December 2016 when she received a phone call detailing the growing problem with local children who were not getting enough to eat on the weekends.
While Union schools provide breakfast and lunch to children in need during school days, Carmichael said many kids were going hungry over the weekends.
She said they worked with the Head Start and Pre-K Counts programs last year to send bags of food home with students every Friday.
“Donations came in well, and we started with Sligo Elementary this year,” Carmichael said.
Currently, the programs helps 35 Head Start and Pre-K Counts children every week, while an additional 51 bags of food are sent home to students in kindergarten through third grades at Sligo Elementary every other week.
Included in the bags are items such as juice boxes, individual macaroni and cheese boxes, soup, applesauce, fruit cups, pudding cups, Jell-O, peanut butter and crackers, granola bars and individual cereals.
While the volunteers who pack the bags are not in contact with the children and families who receive the food, Carmichael said she has heard from teachers that the children are excited to get the food and that effort is helping these kids.
Although the program is based out of the Rimersburg United Methodist Church, Carmichael said it is not specially a program of that one church, but for the whole community and other churches.
“I’ve tried to keep it more as something the community as a whole can participate in,” she said.
Donations have kept the program afloat so far, including a recent $1,500 grant from the Jerusalem United Church of Christ in Rimersburg through the Penn West Conference of the United Church of Christ.
All funding for the program comes from local donations, grants and other fundraising, and Carmichael said monetary donations are what are being sought. She explained that the money allows them to purchase more food in bulk, and to maintain a uniformity in the items that each child receives each week.
If more funding starts to come in, Carmichael said the program could grow.
“Our hope is to be able to expand it even further,” she said.
Donations can be sent to the Rimersburg United Methodist Church at 399 Main Street, Rimersburg, PA 16248, or the Jerusalem UCC, Box 307, Rimersburg, PA 16248. Checks should include “Blessing Kids Project” in the memo line.
Volunteers said that they estimate that it costs approximately $5 to $6 each week to fill one bag, with an estimated cost of more than $10,000 for the school year.
“It is an expense; everything helps,” Carmichael said.
Volunteers also said that while the task seems daunting, they hope that every child who receives a bag of food will feel that someone cares about them.
For more information about the effort, to volunteer or to make a donation, contact Carmichael at (814) 473-6331, Joanne Hosey at (814) 473-3390 or Sandy Traister at (814) 473-6325.