Children who depend on free- or reduced-price school meals can fall through the cracks during the summer. That's why the Lebanon Girls Softball Association will partner with Lebanon Special School District and Wilson County Schools again to hold a food drive fundraising campaign to benefit a summer food program.
"This year, we decided that our Family Fun Day would be more than just about LGSA," said Wayne Oakley, LGSA board member and coach. "We want to give back to the community. So our board met, and we decided to help both school systems provide items to supplement student nutrition at home."
The summer food program will provide food to students who might not otherwise receive adequate nutrition at home. Supplemental food programs have existed in Wilson County schools for about nine years and in Lebanon schools for the last five years.
"Wilson County is the only county in Tennessee that has a backpack program in all of its elementary schools," said Beth Petty, Lebanon schools Family Resource Center coordinator.
"We are lucky to have so much support from the community," said Denise McMillan, Wilson County schools Family Resource Center coordinator. "Even with such an outpouring of support, we still have students in both school systems who are hungry. LGSA is yet another group who is willing to address this need."
It costs $130 to sponsor a child in the backpack program for a school year. Teachers and school counselors identify students who are most at need. Once on the program, the classroom teacher discretely places a bag of food into the child's backpack to be taken home for the weekend.
The food bag consists of two entrees, two fruit cups, two cereal bowls, two juice or shelf stable milk boxes and snacks. However, the program only lasts during the school year, which often leaves students without adequate food for the summer. This year, many local churches and organizations plan to provide food and manpower for the summer program.
LGSA wanted to address the summer months in particular. All of the food and money donated, will be given to the summer food program, which will serve both Wilson County and Lebanon students.
"We are hoping this will be a great opportunity for our players to learn how they can contribute back to their community and assist their peers," said Oakley.
LGSA began collecting food and money donations Monday. They will continue to accept donations through the
end of games on May 18. In an effort to encourage the players to collect as many items as possible, LGSA is issuing a friendly competition between teams by age groups. During the closing ceremonies, a winning team from each age group will be announced. Dickʼs Sporting Goods has provided bonus certificates for top fundraisers.
Food items needed include peanut butter, jelly, crackers, Spaghetti O's, chili, fruit cups, raisins, individual bags of chips, pepperoni slices, juice boxes, canned soup, Vienna sausage, applesauce cups, Pop Tarts, breakfast bars, cheese crackers, ravioli, pudding cups, Easy Mac and Cheese, individual cereal boxes, beef sticks, Cheese-Its or other individual snack crackers.
When buying items, keep in mind young children could be preparing the food themselves, so pop-top cans are preferred over cans that require can openers to open. Money donations are also welcome. Organizers remind donors to not bring perishable food items, large bags of food or items requiring refrigeration.
Donation boxes and collection jars will be upstairs in the LGSA field clubhouse at Baird Park next to Veteranʼs Baseball Stadium at 416 Baird Park Circle. The easiest entry to the park is through a gated entrance off Cainsville Pike, two-tenths of a mile from Southside Baptist Church. At the entrance, there is a large LGSA sign. Boxes will be labeled for each team.
Anyone can drop items or cash off at the LGSA field Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday nights from 5-9 p.m. Rained-out games will cancel the fundraiser for that night. Cash or items may also be dropped off May 18 from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. If games are rained out, the event will be rescheduled.
Anyone who would like to donate, or have questions about the fundraiser may email LGSA at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Petty at 615-453-2693 or email@example.com.