FLCC fuels academic, enrichment programsWritten by Patrick Timmis | | email@example.com
Toledo Free Press will focus a six-week series this summer on the mission of Feed Lucas County Children (FLCC). From July 3 to July 17, Walt Churchill’s markets will participate in a “Round Up Hunger” campaign to raise funds for FLCC.
There are a lot of hungry children in Toledo.
In Lucas County, 29,962 children under the age of 18 — 27.4 percent — live at or below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census. During the school year, the National School Lunch Program ensures at least one meal a day for them. But that program halts during the long summer break, leaving many children scrounging for food.
Feed Lucas County Children is trying to fill the need, serving up to 6,200 children a day at 67 sites around the county.
Children are relying on FLCC for more than food. The organization also fuels 55 partner programs that focus on everything from basic necessities to academics, sports and enrichment.
“They provide lunch every day and we’d starve without them,” said Sister Virginia Welsh, the director of the Padua Center of Toledo. The center’s staff tutors teach children about food through working in a backyard garden and run summer camps — this summer, the theme for every camp is being a hero.
“A hungry kid’s a dangerous kid,” said Betty Amison, who has been the executive director of Grace Community Center for 42 years. “Kids [who] are hungry are very uncertain, they’re angry, they misbehave … and they steal. They’ll do things.”
Amison said the center’s summer program focuses on nourishing children’s bodies and brains together. The camps incorporate music classes, visual arts and academics integrated around a central theme and end with a production. This year built around social issues like tolerance and acceptance based on the TV show “Glee.”
Anthony Johnson is a camp director for Kids Unlimited, a summer program dedicated to academics — particularly Ohio Achievement Test (OAT)preparation — and exercise. There is a strong link, he said, between whether a child has eaten and whether he can succeed academically. But without FLCC, the program could not afford to feed its campers, he said.
Johnson’s favorite success story for Kids Unlimited is of 13 fifth-grade boys who were not model students.
The students all attended Lincoln Academy for Boys, a school that has not traditionally scored well on the OAT, Johnson said.
“We had resistance you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “These were all boys and they were rough, and you’re trying to get them to do something they don’t traditionally do.”
In the camp’s 10 weeks, the boys burned out two teachers and were on a third. But when it came time to take the test, they scored an average of 42 points higher than any other school in the area.
“All 13 made it to high school,” Johnson said, “and all 13 are doing well.”
Other programs focus on even more basic needs.
“The average income in this area is $5,000 and below,” said John Savage, a board member of the Martin Luther King Kitchen for the Poor.
The kitchen’s workers clothe and feed people of all ages, hand out Christmas presents, provide emergency food packets and furnish apartments when they can.
“Whatever we can do, we do,” said Henrietta Armstrong, the kitchen’s supervisor. “We give money out of our pockets. People coming in crying — you just do what you do.”
Cindy Milbry knows about doing what she can. The first time she attended Redeemer Lutheran Church, she wasn’t sure how she had gotten there. She remembered falling down outside the church building and hitting her head while on her way to another church service. When she woke up, she was sitting in a pew.
But Milbry had sworn that she would never be a Lutheran.
“I grew up in a Missouri Synod [Lutheran] orphanage, and bad things happened to me,” she said.
That morning, members of Redeemer were discussing shutting its doors due to financial struggles. Milbry said she heard someone speak up, volunteering to run fundraising dinners, and realized it was herself. Those dinners raised $7,000, and the church stayed open.
Milbry heads the church’s outreach ministry. Last summer, Redeemer fed 150 children per day and hosted educational sessions in subjects such as music, science and tae kwon do.
One of the children was a young boy with a sour attitude and a destructive streak. But he wanted to help Milbry. She told him he would have to change his attitude, and he responded by becoming a leader for the other children. When he went back to school, Milbry said proudly, he began receiving all A’s and B’s in his classes.
Redeemer has about 20 active members on a good day, and struggles to fund its programs. But the money always comes through, Milbry said, sometimes from unlikely sources.
“Poor people are more generous than people who have means,” Milbry said. “If they have three slices of bread to divide between two people, they’ll turn around and give you two slices and split one slice between [themselves].”