People involved with the Summer Lunch Program got to see lots of smiles on Monday.
That’s when about 450 backpacks were distributed to local students via the Grab-N-Go meal program at Bell Field, Linden and Washington elementary schools and in the Meadowbrook neighborhood.
For the past eight years, Fremont Presbyterian Church has served midday meals and helped provide educational opportunities for children and youth through the SLP. Other entities including Fremont Area United Way, Salvation Army and Fremont Public Schools have been involved in the community endeavor.
At the end of the summer, the SLP also would provide backpacks with school supplies to children and youth who’d participated in the program.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the church wasn’t able to serve meals in its building this summer, but area churches have worked together to provide weekend food totes for the Grab-N-Go meal sites.
And the SLP was able to provide backpacks for students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade this week at the Grab-N-Go sites. Supplies in the backpacks varied depending on grade level.
Community members have donated funds and helped put school supplies into the backpacks, said Odetta Wacker, who’s involved with the SLP.
Volunteers from the Presbyterian and Salem Lutheran churches packed backpacks, while several other churches have given monetary donations.
Wacker said a dozen representatives from First National Bank of Omaha and Pinnacle Bank helped pack more than 200 backpacks in under an hour.
Children and parents expressed gratitude for the backpacks.
“It was the greatest thing to see the smiles on their faces and to see that look of excitement of ‘This is mine. I can take this home with me,’” said Jen Ashley, director of discipleship and outreach ministry at Fremont Presbyterian Church.
She noted something else:
“The parents were incredibly grateful.”
Ashley said the best part has been the community coming together to fill a need for kids for getting ready to start the school year.
The Rev. Jon Ashley, pastor of Fremont Presbyterian Church, said he hopes the SLP will be able to resume its traditional onsite program in the church in 2021.