BY MELANIE BUCK –
Pulse Multi-Media General Manager LeAnn Dilbeck is proud to announce that they will be partnering with the local Mena Lioness Lions organization to help alleviate hunger for the county’s children through the Backpack Program.
A Harvest of Hope Radio-thon will be held on KENA 104.1FM on December 4 and these two organizations are counting on the generous businesses and individuals of this community to step-up as they always do and pledge their support of this worthy program. “We forget what a privilege it is to have funds to go to the grocery store and buy food,” said Lioness Patty Young. Through the Backpack Program, children are able to take a backpack of ‘kid-friendly, ready-to-eat or simple-to-prepare’ food home with them from school each week to give them something to eat on the weekends while away from school. Not only does it give the student food to eat, they also have food for younger siblings that have not reached school age. Most of the kids they serve get free or reduced lunches at school, but the struggle comes on the weekends, and over holiday breaks. “Most kids get really excited about breaks from school but for the kids on our program, that’s a very troubling thought, that they’re not going to get regular food. The backpacks and meal kits fill that need.”
Dilbeck is confident in the local community once they are more aware of the difference they can make in these students’ lives, “When you hear the stories from the counselors, it will break your heart. Regardless of what their home situation is, it is simply unacceptable to me to have students hungry and worrying about eating when they are not in school. I’ve watched this community step-up time and again my entire life and take care of our own. This is one of those times. I commend Patty Young and the Mena Lioness for stepping up and tackling this issue head on 3 years ago. We just want to lend our support to increase awareness and bring greater opportunity for everyone to be involved and make a positive difference in our community.”
The radiothon will begin at 7 a.m. and run until noon. “We’ve asked Sue Cavner to join us who has 20-plus years of experience with telethons on KENA. We encourage businesses and individuals to call in their pledges or bring in their donations. Any amount is appreciated.”
Young explained that the Mena Lioness partner with the Arkansas Rice Depot, who by buying in bulk, is able to maximize the amount of food purchased beyond what we as individual shoppers can do. However, for those who want to purchase food, Dilbeck explained they have partnered with James Supersave Foods and Walmart who will have displays of the suggested food items to include in these backpacks. “This is a “team” radio-thon and we will not only be broadcasting from the KENA studios but also from these two locations,” added Dilbeck. Washburn’s Home Furnishings will be providing trucks to place the food donations received to take to their distribution point.
Young and Dilbeck are grateful for the community partnerships and such resources as Arkansas Rice Depot. What began as rice farmers donating sacks of rice, has turned into a statewide program that has been the example for many other programs across the country, and also internationally. Arkansas’ Food for Kids has fed over 35,000 children throughout the state. “We are just Arkansans feeding Arkansans,” said Brandi Johnston. In conjunction with other donors, Rice Depot fills pantries and/or implements the Backpack Program in 64 of the 75 counties in Arkansas.
Polk County is one such place where the Backpack Program is in full bloom, thanks to organizations like the Mena Lioness Lions who head up fundraising for the program in the county. “Polk County is a model example. You all raise funds that allow the program to continue,” said Johnston. She continued, “When we began making cuts, we looked at districts and counties where the community is involved and had already raised funds and said, ‘we need to stay there.’”
Young explained that to fully fund a school, the estimated cost is $3,000 per semester. To fully fund all of the schools in our county for an entire year, the estimated cost would be $48,000. “I know that is a huge amount of money but we have to ask ourselves, isn’t the cost to not help these students far greater?”
Young and Dilbeck said they are looking forward to bringing more details as the time draws closer. For those wanting more information on how they can become involved, you may contact Young at 479-394-2211 or Dilbeck at 479-243-9600.