By Allison C. Gallagher
Record Herald Writer
WEST MILTON – This year’s 5/2 Lunch Bunch program has partnered up with the Milton-Union Library and Miami County Dental Clinic to provide children and their families with nutritious meals over the summer, books to keep reading, and free dental check-ups.
Discipleship Director for Hoffman United Methodist Church Pam Hitchcock stated that the church has been doing Lunch Bunch for seven years. It started in 2008, due to needs expressed by the Milton-Union Elementary school counselors for a lunch program in the summer for the sudents. Lunch Bunch is a nono-denominational fath-based program that offers a free lunch and other activities.
This year, Milton-Union Public Library Children’s Librarian Wendy Heisey contacted Hoffman about starting a reading program to go along with Lunch Bunch in West Milton and Potsdam.
“She’s taking books out to the children to be able to read, and she’s doing her own reading program at Potsdam United Methodist Church,” Hitchcock said.
In addition to Hoffman and Potsdam, Heisey is also having a reading program at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
“She’s doing those outline areas because she figures that the kids here at Hoffman are within a few blocks and can get here on their own, while kids on the south end of town may not be,” Hitchcock said.
Heisey said that she focused on outlying areas following a seminar she attended for librarians in Cincinnati. At that seminar, Cincinnati librarians were discussing ways to expand accessibility to books for children who may not be able to get to the library. This got Heisey thinking of ways she could help children in West Milton.
“I realized that the churches in town already had a lunch program, so I thought I could partner with them,” Heisey said. “My goal was to reach children on the south side of town at Good Shepherd [Lutheran Church] who may not be able to get to Hoffman, which is toward the center of town. I realized that a lot of them also may not be able to get to the library either, so bringing books to them would be a better idea.”
Heisey stated that the first time she decided to join the children at lunch and read to them that it was a bit awkward, since the children were not quite sure what to make of her, but that now the kids are comfortable with her reading and are friendly.
“When I’m there, my goal is to try to read some stories with them and provide an optional craft,” Heisey said.
Hitchcock said that the children who come to Lunch Bunch at Hoffman also have craft time during the week on Mondays, while Tuesdays feature a retired pastor giving the story and talking to them. Wednesdays are music days, which Pastor Justin Williams leads.
This year, to go along with Kid’s Club’s theme of Epic Summer, Hitchcock said that the kids were doing a project with Lunch Bunch. She felt that the children needed to learn about and practice the art of giving back to those who are going through hard times.
“We decided that the children needed to learn how to give back, to know that there’s as much joy in giving as receiving,” Hitchcock said. “One of their crafts is to tie off fleece blankets to make lap blankets for the Children at Children’s Medical Center that would accommodate the children there who are in wheelchairs. We’re also running a Beanie Baby donation, with each lap blanket getting a Beanie Baby in the blanket pocket. It’s pretty cute.”
Heisey is glad that the first year is going well with the reading program through Lunch Bunch.
“Since the books I read are donated, the kids can take home a book they want after lunch and keep it, and they are excited,” Heisey said. “The moms are happy about the books and reading program as well, and have been very friendly and receptive. I can’t wait to do this again.”
Hitchcock also made a connection with the Miami County Dental Clinic at the Miami County Foundation Grant award program. This summer, the Miami County Dental Clinic will be doing a mobile clinic for kids’ free cleanings and screenings July 22 at Hoffman during the Lunch Bunch time.
Lunches are served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Children ages five and younger must be accompanied by a parent. The sites are Hoffman United Methodist Church, 201 S. Main St., West Milton, 937-698-4401; Potsdam United Methodist Church, 12 S. Main St., Potsdam, 937-947-1438; and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1209 S. Miami St., 937-698-5826.