|Lynne Clarke of Boy Scout Troop 1993 |
fills a bag at Feed the Kids for Summer.
Photo: Amanda Rogers, Mansfield News-Mirror
Reprinted from the Mansfield News-Mirror
Common Ground books a success
Common Ground served lunch to thousands of local youngsters this summer and dished up a side of reading.
For the past six years, the non-profit charity has run Feed the Kids for Summer, handing out bags of ready-to-eat or microwavable food to youngsters who are on the Mansfield school district's free and reduced-lunch program. This summer, the program quadrupled the number of bags given out in 2007 and began a reading program, loaning and giving out stacks of books, from picture books to chapter books.
"You don't have to say 'Don't forget your book,' they are over there," said Linda Massey, a volunteer at the Bisbee Baptist food pantry, one of 10 participating pantries. "We had one child who said 'I don't really read.' The volunteers encouraged them and they've been back every week. One little boy shows up first every week."
Co-organizer Phil Stover estimates that the program, which runs through Aug. 15, will give out 8,000 bags of food this summer, up from last year's 7,200. The cost will run about $40,000 for the summer, Stover said, which is covered through donations.
The Community Summer Reading Program, run in affiliation with the Mansfield Public Library, received a donation of 5,000 books from Half Price Books to share with the children, who range from age 2 through the sixth grade. Most of those books are gone, says Annette Weber, youth services librarian. The children were given reading logs and, if they return with them each week, they receive a prize from the treasure box. Some youngsters came once, others forgot their reading logs and others filled them up. Students who read at least 10 hours this summer will receive a certificate.
"If kids had parents who live close by, they came consistently," Weber said. "I'm guessing a quarter (of the 800) will turn in their logs, which sounds terrible, but when you consider they might not have read anything, it's good. Even if we don't get any logs back, it's a success because we got books to kids who wouldn't normally have read.
"I think this has been an awakening," she said. "This is something we should be doing."
Retired teacher and volunteer coordinator for the reading program, Dee Lemser, agrees.
"When people are excited about reading, how can you not be glad?" Lemser said. "They can go all over the world in that book. If I were a teacher and a kid showed me their reading list, I would be thrilled. Reading enhances vocabulary and they will do better on tests."
Eddie Jackson, a volunteer at St. Jude Catholic Church's food pantry, knows some children who made the most of the reading program.
"There are three sisters who have each gotten more than 2,000 minutes, one has more than 5,000 minutes," he said. "We got 1,100 books to start and had to get an extra 500."
Massey admits that she had reservations about the program at first.
"I've seen it in action," she said. "I think it feeds their minds."
On Wednesday, August 8, 2012 a record number of Common Ground Network volunteers worked unloading boxes and bagging of items for the Feed the Kids for Summer program. With so much help they were able to pack over 800 bags (in 33 minutes!) and presented to the 11 food bank trucks. Volunteers are encouraged to help at the final Feed the Kids for Summer program bagging at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, August 15 at First Baptist Church 1800 East Broad Street, Mansfield, TX.
Update: Over $39,000 was donated from the community this year.
Mansfield ISD is a partner with the Common Ground Network.