“I’m certainly not surprised to see the quality of service that our staff and volunteers provided today because that’s the Zep way,” he added. “Our folks want to take care of their community, so if there’s anyone out there in need of anything, don’t be afraid to ask.”
Members of food services - The Nutrition Group - were the first to arrive at Shenandoah Elementary/Middle School which will serve as lunch headquarters. Volunteers and staff began reporting for duty around 9 a.m. and were on the road by 9:30 in school buses and vans en route to the various pick-up locations - Belle Valley Fire Department, Batesville American Legion, Summerfield Legion Hall, the United Methodist Church in Ava and a sidewalk spot on Caldwell Street in Pleasant City.
After distributing the grab-and-go meals to appreciative families, the volunteers returned to SES/SMS to discuss issues and make adjustments going forward, one of which was to reduce the pick-up time from two hours to one.
“Starting Wednesday, we are going to adjust our pick-up time,” said Leffingwell. “Instead of 10 a.m. to noon, we are going to reduce that to a window of 11 a.m. to noon (Monday through Friday).
Leffingwell pointed out that while the current set-up is in place for three weeks, the situation regarding restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic remains fluid.
“We realize that we are considering both short-term and long-term plans right now,” he said. “Our short-term goal is to continue with the current points of pick-up, but we’re also asking folks that if they can’t get to one of the pick-up points, let us know and we will deliver to you.
“Long-term, we expect to be doing more door-to-door delivery than we are this first week,” he continued, “but this is a starting point. Every day we are learning and adjusting.
“If our closure extends beyond three weeks,” Leffingwell added, “we are looking at running bus routes not only to deliver food, but to support our students’ educational needs whether that’s getting a device to the home...providing assignments and supplies...whatever we need to do.”
Leffingwell emphasized that the lunch program is for ALL students.
“It’s important to know that these uncertain times are impacting families in a variety of ways,” he said, “and by no means is this service income based. We’re here to serve all of our kids throughout our entire district.”
Food Services Coordinator Lorraine Holiday captured the spirit of the program.
“It’s a time where we find out what’s important and where your values are,” she said. “I’m Christian by faith and I think God is telling us something, and this is a way to keep us humble and to participate in helping others in whatever way we can.
“Good food makes people happy and we’re just glad to do our part in difficult times,” Holiday added. “Just having a school lunch at home lets the students know we care about them.”
Anyone who hasn’t already signed up can contact Holiday at 740-732-5661 (ext. 11) or 740-213-5704.
Donations to help keep the program going for as long as it takes are welcome, according to Leffingwell.
“Some of what we had available today was donated by our PTO,” he said. “We will have a system in place if people would like to make donations or contributions, with more information coming out on that soon or they can call the school office.”
While the Day One turnout was great, additional volunteers are needed going forward.
“Eric Sholtis is our volunteer coordinator and right now,” said Leffingwell. “We’re looking for around 12 volunteers a day. We don’t want to wear out just a few people by having them do it every day; we want to spread it out in case it goes beyond the current three weeks.”
(To volunteer, contact Sholtis at 740-509-0278).