Mantua – For those unfamiliar with the idea, the Kids’ Weekend Meals (KWM) program is a local volunteer organization that provides breakfast, lunch, and snack food items for the weekend to students in the Crestwood School District. Each week, the family’s caregiver receives a bag filled with nutritious foods, including fruits and vegetables, macaroni and cheese, cereal, breakfast bars, and bread. These items help struggling families by ensuring that kids have access to healthy meals when school isn’t in session. Volunteers Liz and Paul Meeker, along with a slew of volunteers, run the program at Mantua Center Christian Church (MCCC).
Individuals and community organizations make the program possible through volunteers of time and donations. Scout troops, clubs, families and individuals have helped pack and load bags for distribution each week. And over the past year, the Western Reserve Kiwanis organization has donated the proceeds from several spaghetti dinners to KWM. Students at Crestwood Intermediate School held a competitive food drive, collecting KWM wish list items like macaroni and cheese and canned vegetables. Students at Crestwood Middle School held a coin-collecting competition — students versus administrators — to see who could raise more money for the worthy cause. Friends of the program baked, decorated and donated hundreds of cupcakes for KWM, which were sold to raise funds at the Mantua Potato Festival. The organization, which has been a blessing to Crestwood’s struggling families, has itself been blessed by an outpouring of support.
As an added surprise, during the Christmas holidays, KWM was able to provide 38 families with special Christmas gift baskets, in addition to the usual weekend meals. According to Liz Meeker, “We decided to this after several of us attended a Stewardship event (at MCCC) and the speaker spoke about “The Advent Conspiracy” and the fact that Christmas can still make a difference in the world,” she explained. “I had been playing with this idea and that made up my mind,” she concluded.
Each basket included a ham or gift card for a ham, potatoes and sweet potatoes, beans, corn and dessert. Then donors added whatever they wanted — like kids’ gifts, gift cards, and candy, wrapping paper. Some tended to include family items, like games, and one even included gift wrap so the gifts could be wrapped to surprise the children. “It was amazing how generous and imaginative people were,” Meeker marveled. “And while the MCCC congregation provided the majority of the baskets, we did have a few donated by the community, including the Western Reserve Kiwanis.
“I wish I had a camera to capture the expressions on their faces as they received the baskets,” Meeker gushed. “So many of them were beyond grateful for this extra help during the holiday season. It was a very happy event,” she added. Meeker noted receiving texts and thank you cards from families, touched by the generosity of strangers. One woman sent a card that included a photo of her family, and read, “Thank you so much for your donations. My kids are so excited when I come home with a package from KWM. I hope you all have a blessed Christmas.”
“I would love to do this again, and to involve the community more next time,” Meeker shared.
For those interested in helping KWM to fill or organize the weekly bags, or with filling a basket for a 2018 Christmas basket, contact KWM via their Facebook page.