Ah! Summertime and the livin’ is easy! Especially for school age children! No more early wakeups, no more bus rides, hours of classes and homework.
Now it’s time to play, be with friends, swim, vacation and just chill.
Not fun for everyone!
But not for ALL school age children. The Yelm community and surroundings have over 300 of those kids wishing they could be so carefree. But they may have one or more parents unemployed or underemployed. They may not be living with their families, instead they’re couch surfing, living with relatives or friends and sometimes not getting enough to eat and worrying about where their next meal will come from.
During the school year, those kids have access to free or low-cost lunches and, thanks to some local non-profit organizations, get a bag of food stuffs for the weekend. Not full meals, but at least supplemental items like cans of ravioli or chili, Mac and Cheese, Top Ramen, snack bars, milk, and juice. So far so good.
Rotary Steps in to Fill the Gap
But when school vacation time comes, especially the long break starting the end of June, those benefits go away. That’s what the Rotary Club of Yelm saw over 7 years ago and decided they wanted to try to fill the gap for, at the very least, the 10 weeks of summer vacation.
Thus was born our flagship project, 10 Weeks of Summer Food Program. We started by duplicating what was given out for the weekends during the school year and added to it as we raised funds. By 2022, we were able to provide over 2,700 bags of food to over 300 kids during their summer break at 4 different locations throughout the community. Since most of these kids were living with someone else (not completely homeless), these extra amounts of food made life easier for those adults who were caring for them.
More than one mother would come to our distribution stations with tears in their eyes saying, “I don’t know how I would have fed my kids this week without you!” At first some were very shy or a bit embarrassed to be taking free food, but those Rotarians and volunteers made them feel welcome and as the weeks went by, you could see the happiness on their faces and a big “Thank You” as they took the bags.
Partners against Hunger
We have had one steady partner in this program since it began: the Yelm School District. Many of our volunteers were teachers or other staff members,helping with bagging the food on Sundays or helping to distribute on Tuesdays. They would say, “After all, these are our kids!”.
After years of shifting places to create and store supplies needed for these bags, Grocery Outlet Yelm came to town with solutions to help in 2021. They became an active partner in the Rotary and provided storage and space to create the bags. They have volunteered many hours lending to the logistics of shopping and setting up a fluid operation for community volunteers and Rotarians to come in and efficiently create up to 600 bags at a time.
If that is not enough, the owners of Grocery Outlet Yelm have such a heart to serve the community, they supported a fund created by Grocery Outlet that the community can donate to in the month of July to help ward against hunger- Independence from Hunger donated over $2500 to help our cause.
This is a Community Volunteer Project
In 2022, we have grown to 55 local community volunteers and more Rotary involvement than ever before! We partnered with the Rotary Club of Capital-Centennial, who came out to offer hands on help as well as a generous donation utilizing part of their DCG funds to help us fund this program that has become critical to our community.
None of this would be possible without the support of local businesses and individuals who
open their hearts, their hands and their wallets to help us fund this nearly $30,000/year program and thousands of hours of volunteer service. We look forward to many more years of working hard to meet the needs of our community through this program.