By Sue Moore
Jill Strake is this year’s president of the Schoolcraft Friday Pack program. In its eighth year of operations it now originates out of the Eagles Nest headquarters at 623 Clay Street. The board has several new members, which means lots of help in the continuing success of children receiving nutritional food each weekend during the school year, Strake said.
Twenty percent of the Schoolcraft school population is eligible for free or reduced lunches but the families don’t all apply. This year the packs are secretly placed in over 50 children’s lockers on Friday afternoon by the volunteers. They look just like most any other children’s paper bags that go home, to offset any stigma that could be attached to receiving the food.
Funding for the Friday packs comes from generous donations by members of the Schoolcraft community, said Sue Kuiper the long-time director of the Eagle’s Nest. “Things will just show up sometimes. It’s amazing. None of it goes to waste. We also purchase food from local stores through the Business to Business program at Meijer, Harding’s specials on peanut butter, and price shopping at Sam’s Club,” she said. A special mailing for donations to the Friday Pack which is a 501c3 was sent out to Schoolcraft area residents in September. Besides individuals, the largest donations seem to come in around Christmas time from J Rettenmaier and its employees and Chem Link Incorporated, Strake said.
Volunteers sort and pack each Thursday with items such as slim jims, granola bars, popcorn, juice boxes, and four entrees. “It needs to be things kids will actually eat and not waste,” claimed Kuiper. “We found out that green beans are not a good thing when we did a survey to get feedback on the types of food sent home.”
A first in 2016 was the launch of a summer program delivered to two children for breakfast and lunch who were in the early elementary summer school because the need was apparent, Kuiper said. Coupons for milk, eggs, and special pizza from Little Caesars and Pizza Hut in Schoolcraft are sent directly to each family for them so they can shop for themselves.
The Eagles Nest also provides headquarters for Adam’s Kids, a service that provides diapers and wipes every month for poverty/low income families in South County. They have affiliated with St. Andrews Church on Covington Street near the K-Wings ice rink, run by Pastor Jim Dyke of Vicksburg. Between the Eagle’s Nest site, the Saint Andrews site and the Kalamazoo Gospel mission Adam’s kids serve over 100 infants and toddlers. Saint Andrews is a distribution site. All diapers continue to come from the Adam’s Kids site in Schoolcraft.
Other new officers include Megan Walsh, vice president; Alicia Abfall, treasurer; Holly Nadrasik, secretary; Brenda Rochholz, director; Victoria Boos, director; and Sue Kuiper, long-time officer and this year a director.