I had the pleasure of visiting both a summer program at Cornerstone Park serving parents and children meals as well as a BackPack distribution at Northern Illinois Food Bank’s partner agency, Boys & Girls Club of Elgin, Illinois. There were 35 children and 10 adults in attendance at Cornerstone Park and 20 (two on reserve) children registered for the BackPack program at the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin.
Cornerstone Park is located in the very center of a low-income, multi-unit housing complex. The park serves as an important meeting place for the community. As I arrived, I immediately noticed the number of families enjoying lunch together. Their meal consisted of a salami sandwich, a peach, pickles and chocolate milk. The children raved about the peach and milk. Two sisters were proudly showing off their new puppy and taking him fearlessly down the slide. The passion of the program’s coordinator was incredible. Her heartfelt words and excitement over the programs they offer the families they serve was marvelous.
As a little girl, I wish I had the opportunity to attend the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin! Anything a child/teen could want, they have to offer: gym, computers, art room, education center, games room, gardening club, etc. Our tour was conducted by their Youth of the Year. He radiated as he spoke of the activities/programs and how much the members loved attending the Club. His dedication to the Club is confirmed by his license plate – CLUBKID! Upon the completion of our tour, we were met by the program director who showed us how the BackPacks were packed by a junior staff and then distributed to the 20 members on a weekly basis. Each BackPack weighed approximately 6-8 pounds and contained shelf-stable, kid-friendly foods.
As a staff member of Feeding America, this visit made me feel so good that, in conjunction with great partners like the Northern Illinois Food Bank and Boys & Girls Club, the work we do is truly reaching children in need and making a difference. It’s giving children the energy they need to enjoy their summer and all the other wonderful activities these great partners provide.
The Northern Illinois Food Bank was a recipient of the ConAgra Foods Foundation Hunger Free Summer grant which enables food banks to find innovative solutions to feed more children during the summer months.
*Erin Calle is a member grants manager at Feeding America.