Southwestern Youth Services has been providing a needed service to the kids enrolled in summer school at the Bulldog Academy. The service has fed the children for free each day while they are at summer school.
The program started when Nicole Walker of the Academy contacted Ben Walters of the Salvation Army and asked him if he knew of a way to feed the children throughout the summer. Walker brought the concern to the Summer Feeding Program committee and together, they made it happen.
The committee, which consists of Southwestern Youth Services Executive Director Jean Brandon, Maj. Ben Walters of the Salvation Army, Victoria Cleveland and Tara Turner of the Jackson County Health Department, was formed last year as a way to feed children during the summer months. Last summer, there were 40 kids throughout the summer that came to the Rotary Center to each lunch. The committee wanted to find a way to reach more children and considered many different options before settling on the summer school program at the academy.
The major concern that spurred the program’s beginning was that there are a lot of children who once they leave school for the year, they do not get the same opportunity to eat that they have at school. Southwestern Youth Services comes to Bulldog Academy each day at 11 a.m. to deliver food to the children before the kids go home for the day. That means, on average 200 lunches are prepared per day and that by the end of this program, 6,000 lunches will have been prepared for the children.
The food is donated by the Regional Food Bank and is stored at the Salvation Army. If it were not for the help of the health department and the Salvation Army, Brandon says it would not have been possible.
“Everybody has been a huge help in making this come together,” Brandon said. “The health department and the Salvation Army have gone above and beyond to help us make this work for these children. My staff have stepped up and made sure all the lunches were prepared each day and did all of it with an already rigorous schedule. Rick and Dawnie Aldrete have volunteered their time by picking up supplies in Lawton and all around, the teamwork has been amazing.”
Brandon said she received a letter from a little girl who thanked them for what they are doing. The letter told her that without the meals, she would not be able to eat.
The program will last throughout the summer as Youth Minister Angela Ybarra and Strong Tower Church are joining the program during their vacation bible school and the Rev. Robert Jackson and Spirit of the Lord church will provide a place for the lunches to be served once summer school ends.
The program is designed to help the children in the community and all summer long it will be making a difference.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.