FLCC marks 10 years, 1 million mealsWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
As Feed Lucas County Children, a nonprofit combating childhood hunger in the area, celebrates its 10th anniversary and millionth meal served, some big expansion plans are in the works.
For five years, the nonprofit has run out of the old Macomber High School building, 1501 Monroe St., where it can prepare and ship out up to 7,000 meals per day. As part of a $1.5 million expansion, FLCC has plans to move into a 20,000-25,000-square-foot facility, giving it the capability of making 21,000 meals per day.
“We’ve been blessed with wonderful donors over the past 10 years and now that the word’s getting out, we’re seeing more and more people realizing this is a huge impact that we can have,” said Emily Laurel, development coordinator for FLCC. The FLCC board is finalizing the location of the new kitchen and whether it will be a rehabbed or newly constructed facility, she said.
Laurel said that the goal is for FLCC to be in its new location by Jan. 1.
“All of our electricity and all of our gas lines are just completely maxed out. We can’t add more equipment, so we need a bigger kitchen,” she said. “Time is of the essence for us because this building is deteriorating, so the sooner, the better.”
FLCC’s new home will include a serving area so it can feed children on-site and potentially be rented out by other groups. The nonprofit, known for its nutritious meals, also plans to host cooking classes on how to make healthy meals with resources on hand, Laurel said.
Over its history, state officials have recognized FLCC for its contributions to feeding children, said Tony Siebeneck, FLCC’s executive director and founder. When he started FLCC in 2002, it served 7,231 meals at two sites during its first summer and operated out of area churches. Now it prepares up to 7,000 meals daily that are served at 80 locations.
“When we started this, we really didn’t know what was going to happen … we did not realize it was going to get this large,” Siebeneck said, adding that one reason his nonprofit is so successful is because of its commitment to one cause.
Siebeneck became aware of Lucas County’s childhood hunger rate through reading articles. “I didn’t believe it. I just thought, ‘Ah, here’s another bleeding heart story,’ ” he said. After research, he realized the extent of childhood hunger and decided to do something about it. He left his job in the agriculture industry and started FLCC.
“I loved [my old job], but I got kind of tired of working for corporate America and I thought most people talk about helping others, but they really don’t do anything about it. I just kind of felt, ‘Let’s not be a talker; let’s be a doer,’ ” he said. Siebeneck spent much of his own cash on FLCC and nearly became bankrupt.
“I’ve put a lot my personal financing and time and energy into this way back 10 years ago. It came with a lot of hard knocks, but it was well worth it,” he said.
Siebeneck grew up on a farm near Bellefontaine, Ohio, and has his own experience with hunger.
“I grew up hungry. I knew what it was like to go without,” he said.
Siebeneck celebrated his nonprofit’s success Aug. 24 at the Believe Center, 1 Aurora Gonzalez Drive. The Believe Center, which stresses the importance of family involvement, also has plans for the future. This fall, it plans to offer a women’s eight-week full-figure fitness program, which includes yoga, Zumba, healthy cooking classes and childcare, said Juanita Duran, who operates the center with her family. The Duran family started a sports program 15 years ago, but transitioned to include other programming in May after moving into the Aurora Gonzalez Building and taking on a new name. The center will also offer several other activities this fall, including parkour.
The Aug. 24 event had a “fantastic” turnout and featured a bouncy house, an obstacle course and prize giveaways, Laurel said. At the celebration, a representative from the governor’s office presented Siebeneck an award (a child eagerly ran up to talk to Siebeneck during the presentation) and FLCC presented a little girl, who had her bike stolen, a new set of wheels.
Despite a very successful tenure and party, Siebeneck said FLCC has more work to do as there are an estimated 25,000 hungry children in Lucas County. However, he and Laurel have high hopes.
“Once we get this kitchen, which we will, we’re going to hit that 2 million (meal) mark and it’s not going to take 10 years, it’s going to take less than three,” he said.
The expansion project coupled with help from FLCC’s partnering agencies, like the Believe Center, has the potential to eliminate childhood hunger in the area, Laurel said. Still, more volunteers, awareness and funds are needed.
“You can educate people; you can talk to people about us; you can post on Facebook about us … you can come down and donate your time; donate your money; donate your ideas,” she said.
For more information, visit www.feedlucaschildren.org.