Ashley Elliott (left), organizer of the local No Child Left Hungry program, not only spoke to the Carmi Kiwanis Club on Thursday, but also received a $250 donation from the service club after her presentation. Club President Jeremy Jordan (right) presented Elliott with the donation for the program, which helps feed needy youngsters in Carmi, Crossville and Maunie.
Over the past four summers, more than 40,000 free sack lunches have been handed out to needy youngsters in White County.
All thanks to Ashley Elliott.
The driving force behind the No Child Left Hungry program, Elliott was the guest of the Carmi Kiwanis Club at its weekly meeting on Thursday, July 27.
Elliott started the program, which provides free sack lunches to youngsters at six different locations in the county, in 2014.
“Honestly, it was a leap of faith that started it,” she explained. “At the time, I was working in another town that had a similar program. I felt that God was calling me to start one up here in White County.
“It took a little encouraging, though. I’m not one who likes to be in front of a lot of other people, so it took me a little bit to figure out how to do it. I talked to some pastors and had some meetings, and a lot of the churches just jumped right into it. Four years later, we’re still doing it.”
The lunches are handed out from 11 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. each weekday during the summer months. Elliott promotes the program by sending flyers home with students toward the end of the school year and by putting up signs around the six drop-off locations, which are the Church of God, Faith Tabernacle, Stewart Street Church and First United Methodist Church, all in Carmi, the Maunie Park, and Crossville United Methodist Church.
The program is funded and staffed entirely by contributions from the community.
Different businesses or organizations in town volunteer to prepare the lunches and hand them out for a specific week.
On the first day of the program back in 2014, Elliott recalled handing out 31 lunches. Today, about 250 lunches are handed out, on average.
“We’re trying to reach the kids in need,” said Elliott, a 2003 Carmi-White County High School graduate. “I think people enjoy helping with it and knowing that they’re helping kids get fed that need to get fed. I’m sure there’s more out there that we haven’t reached yet and that’s why I wanted to have different drop-off locations.”
Elliott said the numbers were down a little this year, but she estimated the program handed out 14,000 lunches in 2016, another 11,200 in 2015, and 7,500 in 2014. The biggest drop-off location (in terms of the number of lunches handed out) is the Church of God, which is located across from Jefferson Attendance Center on Sycamore Street.
Following Elliott’s presentation, Kiwanis President Jeremy Jordan presented her with a $250 contribution from the group.
Earlier in the meeting, a moment of silence was observed for Jack Martin, the well-respected and well-loved former Kiwanian who had passed away earlier in the week.