It takes a lot of thought, hard work, dedication, time, preparation and (yes) money to feed a lot of people. And that’s just what Kids Eat Free depends on — 100 percent.
This 501(c)3 organization, chaired by Gail Dansby, is getting ready to feed school children who otherwise might not have a noon meal. “Sometimes it [the need] is just a temporary down on the family’s luck — sometimes that bad luck lasts longer,” Dansby said. “We are glad to help those who need it and tickled when families no longer need the help. That means that bad luck spell is over with.”
Kids Eat Free partners with the Van Alstyne Ministerial Alliance and operates out of the Van Alstyne United Methodist Church. Dansby said the church’s kitchen is compliant with the Grayson County Health Code. All of those who work with food have food manager permits, she added.
This past week, Braddock Chiropractic Clinic donated about $1,000 worth of food — a mixture of fruit cups and canned fruit, peanut butter and jelly, rice, oatmeal, chip, granola bars, cookies — and many other food and drink items to Kids Eat Free. This donation was through the efforts of many of the clinic’s patients, Dr. Caleb Braddock said.
This is the sixth summer that Kids Eat Free has fed those who have made their need known. Dansby said that last year they provided 7,801 meals — coasting $14,921.59 — and the volunteers contributed a total of more than 750 volunteer hours. That averages $1.91 per meal, Dansby said. She emphasized that the group wants all donors to know that they are being “good stewards of their donations.”
If other businesses want to involve their customers, they, too, are welcome to accept donations. Kids Eat Free will pick those up.
The organization’s website, KidsEatFree.webs.com, lists four purposes for the organization: conduct non-partisan research education and informational activities to increase public awareness of juvenile hunger; to combat childhood hunger; to prevent children from living hungry for extended periods of time; and to demonstrate God’s love by feeding the hungry. The website also has various ways that people can donate any amount they might want to donate and ways to become involved.
In addition to the cash donations which are so necessary, they get food from Buck Snort BBQ, Romanos Pizza Café, Golden Chick and Jack in the Box. Sometimes, the donations come in the form of greatly-discounted kids meals.
“Thursday is BBQ day,” Dansby said. “More people are needed to help us on those days.” She added that a couple of high school students from the PALS program have helped. “Diamonds Grocery is very generous,” she said.
“We put together sack lunches and distribute them between 11:30 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday,” Dansby said. “Some can come pick them up; but if they can’t, we deliver to their homes during that time [frame]. We also provide weekend meals on Fridays, a little weekend bag maybe with granola bars, fruit cups, oatmeal packs and make up family meals during the three holidays breaks — spring break, Thanksgiving and Christmas — all still geared toward the children.”
The group sent enough applications through the schools for students’ backpacks, to let parents know and complete the application process. But, those who may have missed it can still apply for 2018’s summer assistance by call Dansby at 972-489-1583.
“They can sign up through High School Counselor Gretchen Madison or anyone in the school offices. Usually, though, we pretty much know by the time we get started what our summer will look like,” she said.
Their weekly routine starts at 5:30 p.m. on Sundays. Through the summer, when they pack the non-perishables, such as pickles or cookies. “Also, kids can help us on Sundays, and we do that in the gym of the Methodist Church,” Dansby said. “The rest of the week, the rule is that only adults can help us. We usually have about 10-20 people who come daily. A big shout-out to all the family groups at Elmont Baptist who come out on Sundays. If anyone wants to help, they can even just show up any day, about 11 a.m., or call me.”
The drivers, those who deliver the lunches, have all passed a security check. “Safety is No. 1,” Dansby said. “Many of the drivers are also school teachers, and they receive the intrinsic bonus of keeping in touch with their kids. Those little guys who see their teachers, well, it’s just wonderful, and it’s good to keep in touch with the kids,” she added.
“Again, we want to make sure people understand we are good stewards,” Dansby emphasized.