Hungers No Game for These Heroes
FITCHBURG -- It's 9 o'clock on a Tuesday morning, and about 70 volunteers are furiously packing nonperishable meals with one goal: the annihilation of one of the nation's top obstacles -- childhood hunger.
The men, women and children gathered inside the Wallace Civic Center will package more than 25,000 meals to be delivered to 13 local food pantries and two nonprofit organizations.
Karin Oliveira, director of United Way Community Builders, which organized yesterday's Hunger Heroes event, said the shelves of food pantries are growing bare, and local food banks are struggling to solicit donations.
A Night of Thanks for Those Who Give
LEOMINSTER -- To be a volunteer is to make a positive impact in one's community.
The United Way of North Central Massachusetts held its annual Thank You Celebration at the Four Points by Sheraton Wednesday evening, inviting its volunteers and donors to show appreciation for all they do.
United Way President and CEO Phil Grzewinski called volunteers "the core of what makes our nonprofit community able to do better for society as a whole."
"At whatever level anybody volunteers, within a nonprofit entity, you help forward and push on the mission of that entity. ... Without you, we cannot accomplish our goals for the community," he said.
Leominster Student Creates Food Packs for Kids
LEOMINSTER -- Early on as she raised her 11-year-old granddaughter, Kylee McCumber, Lori Bateman instilled the message that it's better to give than to receive.
Bateman said it's important to "pay it forward" and share what you have.
"We've been blessed," she noted.
Kylee's website www.kyleeskarekitsforkidz.org
Kylee, who attends Southeast Elementary School, saw some students eating breakfast in the cafeteria.
When she learned this was a free meal program, Kylee started to wonder, "What do these kids eat on weekends? Do they have enough food at home?"
"She was really troubled by that," recalled Bateman. "She got really worried, and she just really started to think long and hard about it, and it bothered her."
Kylee decided to do something.
The Stars Shown
This year marks the fourth year of the Star Project Competition run by United Way Community Builders of North Cen- tral Massachusetts. The program runs during National Volunteer Week. Five of the twelve organizations participating this year are from Leominster. Karin Oliveira is the Director for Community Builders. She said she could not be happier about this years’ participation.
“We are gradually getting there, the program is growing each year,” Karin said during a phone interview.
During national volunteer week, it is projected that 385 people volunteered for a total of 759 hours. An estimated 12,367 residents will benefit from this community service and the man-hours translated into monetary value equals $20,371.00. Data was provided by the United Way.
A Season of Giving
Kylee McCumber hold up samples of her Kare Kits she assembles each week. Kits go home with 30 Leominster students on Friday, insuring that they have enough to eat before returning to school on Monday.
as Kylee McCumber neared the end of her 4th grade school year, she came to a realization. Kylee asked why some students ate breakfast at school. Her grandmother Lori Bateman told her two reasons: some kids get to school early because their parents work and others would not eat breakfast otherwise. It was the latter explanation that moved Kylee. Some kids didn’t have enough food at home? Kylee pondered on this until another question hit her. What about the days when there is no school? The possibilities troubled her.
Kylee worked through her ideas with her Grandmother Lori. Gina Wironen, Administrator of Community Engagement & Media Relations, directed Lori to Karen Oliveria from the United Way. Lori also did research through a co-worker who knew about a program in Fitchburg that provides food for students. Another source explored was an organization called Blessings in a Backpack. With information and guidance at the ready, Kylee’s Kare Kits For Kidz was born.
The Stars Shown
By Lynne Klaft CORRESPONDENT
LEOMINSTER Kylee McCumber, 10, noticed that children at her school, Southeast Elementary, received free breakfasts and lunch, and then started to worry that they might not have food to eat on the weekends. So she did something about it.
“I talked with my grandmother about it and we realized that they might not have enough to eat when they weren't in school,” said the fifth-grader.
After doing some research, Kylee and her grandmother, Lori Bateman, learned that one in 10 children nationwide is food-insecure, meaning they do not have the security of knowing where their next meal is coming from.
“I don't worry about where my next meal is coming from. Many children depend on the breakfast and lunch at school,” said Kylee.
Kylee and Ms. Bateman have worked on community service projects together before, including Leominsterveterans care packages and fostering NEADS dogs, so they put their heads together and came up with Kylee's Kare Kits for Kidz.
They involved Southeast Principal Andres Vera and Superintendent of Schools James Jolicoeur in their project, receiving enthusiastic approval from both administrators.
Kylee's kits include nonperishable, nutritious food items, individually packed for each child to take home at the end of the week for weekend meals.
“We have food for two breakfasts, like boxes of cereal, and for lunch, macaroni and cheese or cans of Chef Boyardee, fruit snacks or pudding, and juice boxes,” said Kylee.
“Each week the kits will change, we buy what we can on sale,” said Ms. Bateman, explaining that they are frugal and discerning about how they spend the Kits' money.
The pair had a yard sale last month to benefit the Kits and have enough funds to take care of 12 children for the rest of the school year. But many more children are in need, and Kylee and Ms. Bateman are asking the community to get involved.
“We estimate the cost per child for the school year to be $90. We will provide juice boxes, cereal, applesauce, fruit cups, granola bars, raisins, fruit snack packets, macaroni and cheese, chicken noodle soup and beef ravioli in the kits,” said Ms. Bateman. They are looking people to sponsor a child or give donations in any amount. “Every dollar counts,” she said. All donations will go toward buying food. Folks can also donate food and can email Kylee/Ms. Bateman at email@example.com for acceptable food items and more information.
Checks should be made payable to Kylee McCumber, with Kare Kits for Kidz in the memo on the check and mailed to Kylee McCumber, 68 Main St., No. 564,Leominster, MA 01453-0564.
“I am proud that our families and students are showing such a level of caring. Let's support them,” said Mr. Vera.