NORTH LIBERTY– It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Each year, Optimist Club of North Liberty members donate food to the North Liberty Family Resource Center (FRC), to be distributed to local families. This is the eighth year of the program.
It’s a way to help families stretch food budgets over the holidays, when children are home from school and away from the regular school lunch schedule.
“It is targeted toward families with school-age children,” said FRC Empowerment Specialist Allison Kraus. “When money is extra-tight, it is a lot to feed kids who usually receive free lunches at school.”
The North Liberty Optimists collect nutritious foods like fortified cereal, pancake mix, fresh fruit, cheese and bread; meal items that are easy to prepare and kid-friendly. This year’s donation took about three vans to deliver to Penn Elementary School.
Kris Hynek, FRC Coordinator at Penn school, said it was enough to feed approximately 80 families from the Penn, Van Allen and Garner elementary schools. The recipients are all truly appreciative, she added.
“When you are on a fixed income, fresh fruit can be a real treat because of the expense of produce,” said Hynek. “We get to see the faces of the families who come in to pick up the food, and they say, ‘Wow, all this?’ and that’s priceless.”
Hynek said the partnership the FRC has with the Optimist Club of North Liberty is also priceless.
“It’s a partnership that we cherish and value,” she said. “We look forward to this every year, and so do the families who are served. We hope it continues forever.”
In addition to the assistance from the Optimists, Heartland Community Church donated books, puzzles and board games to be distributed to families, items that are intended to promote family interaction. Life Church of North Liberty donated 500 turkeys in the communities of Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty; the FRC was able to put together 75 turkey baskets that fed 244 people over the Thanksgiving holiday. Life Church also brought 35 pairs of winter boots and 35 pairs of snow pants for children who might otherwise be without winter wear.
“So far, we have been ale to give warm snow pants to every kid who has asked,” said North Liberty FRC Director Jill Winders.
The donations of organizations like local churches and the Optimist Club of North Liberty make it possible for the FRC to continue serving families in need, and Optimist member Margaret Rios said that is what makes the effort worth it.
“We are really excited to be able to serve that many families and be a part of their lives,” said Rios. “In the spirit of Christmas, it is great to be able to support families, especially at this time of year when they could use our help.”
To learn how to assist with next year’s food distribution, call Optimist member Margaret Rios at 626-6134 or contact any Optimist Club member.