Misty Dvorak remembers the quiet, young girl.
Every weekday, the girl came to the Summer Lunch Program meal at The Presbyterian Church of Fremont, but then she’d leave — not attending the educational activities.
“I would try to get her to sign up for the program, but she was too shy to get involved,” said Dvorak, program director of the Hope Center for Kids-Fremont.
Last summer was different. The girl signed up and has been a Hope Center member for about a year.
“In that time, we’ve just really seen her grow socially,” Dvorak said. “She’s always laughing with her friends. She talks a lot more and is a lot more outgoing.”
Dvorak enjoys seeing how children and youth benefit from the annual program, designed to reduce the summer learning gap through a host of educational activities. The program also promotes life skills development, while providing a free lunch to any child ages 1 through 18.
Since its inception five years ago, the Summer Lunch Program has served an estimated 40,000 meals.
This year, the lunch program starts Monday and runs through Aug. 9. Lunches will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Presbyterian Church of Fremont, 520 W. Linden Ave. It will be closed May 29 and July 4.
Programs for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade are set from June 5 to July 28.
Dvorak said the SLP is searching for a cook.
“We are looking for anybody in the community who has a summer open and would like a paid position to cook for the Summer Lunch Program,” she said.
The position would be about 25 to 30 hours a week. Those interested may call The Salvation Army at 402-721-0930.
An SLP coordinating team will provide lunches until a cook is hired, said the Rev. Jon Ashley, summer programming coordinating team leader.
Lunches consist of foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese sandwiches, tacos and spaghetti. The United States Department of Agriculture program meets all the nutritional guidelines and the food portion of the SPL is administered by The Salvation Army, Ashley said.
In 2016, the SLP served about 6,000 meals and approximately 500 different children participated.
Transportation to the meals is provided at all area schools from 11:30 to 11:45 a.m. Students will be taken home following the afternoon programming.
Besides meals, children and youth can participate in a variety of age-appropriate programs.
Preschool-age children can take part in Kindergarten JumpStart provided through Dodge County Head Start. Activities are centered on various subjects including literacy, math, science, social, perceptual and motor skills development.
From 1-4 p.m., children in grades kindergarten through fourth participate in the Fremont Public Schools 21st Century Community Learning Centers, STEAM program. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.
The children will take part in hands-on activities, outdoor learning, recreation and field trips.
Chapel services, led by four different area churches, also are scheduled for kindergarten-fourth grade from noon to 12:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday. The theme will be the “Fruit of the Spirit.”
The Hope Center has a summer program for youth in fifth through 12th grade.
“We have youth development classes, Bible studies, community service, soccer league and field trips,” Dvorak said.
Dvorak said high school youth are focusing on job skills.
“We’re having a couple people come in from First National Bank of Fremont to teach financial literacy classes — basic ways to handle your money well,” Dvorak said.
Students will build their resumes and learn how to articulate their strengths, and other basic job skills, she said.
Hope Center kids also will be able to earn an out-of-state college visit at the end of the summer. The top 11 youth who participate the most throughout the summer will earn the trip, she said.
Volunteers and donations are welcome. To volunteer, contact Renae Kirschenmann at 402-721-0930, Ext. 100. To donate, send checks, marked “Summer Lunch Program,” and mailed to: The Hope Center for Kids, 555 W. 23rd St., Fremont, NE 68025.
Information about the SLP is available at www.facebook.com/fremontsummerlunchprogram.
Area residents are encouraged to participate in the programs.
“The whole Summer Lunch Program gives the kids a chance to be around other kids for the summer, to continue reading and writing and the opportunity to do a lot of fun, recreational and field trip activities over the summer, too,” Dvorak said. “Plus, they get a good meal.”