Action Ministries showed off its summer lunch and learning program during National Summer Learning Day at Athens’ Pinewoods Apartments.
Athens-Clarke Mayor Nancy Denson came to read a proclamation. Former mayor and now Athens Area Chamber of Commerce President Doc Eldridge also showed up.
The children in the program hardly noticed the bigwigs, though. They were too busy playing with each other or the many young volunteers who came out.
Last week’s event took place in a single day, but Action Ministries’ Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program goes on every weekday all summer — starting before and ending after some other summer lunch programs, said Beth Deroshia, who coordinates the summer program for Action Ministries.
Deroshia and volunteers who spend a little time or a lot with the Action Ministries program aim not only to make sure food-insecure children get a meal every day, but to provide activities that are both fun and can help reduce the “summer slide” of children’s academic progress.
Every weekday, volunteers bring lunches to nine sites in Clarke County, including Pinewoods Apartments, Hallmark Mobile Home Park, Athens Gardens and others.
On Fridays, they distribute extra meals, to make sure children have lunch not only for that day but over the weekend, Deroshia said.
There’s a small core group, but hundreds of volunteers help over the course of the summer — some for a little while, some all summer.
One big supporter is Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, said Erin Barger, Action Ministries’ vice president of programs. Students in the UGA entomology club bring their insect zoo out every summer.
Thursday’s group included volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce and Project Safe, and many other groups also help over the course of the summer, Deroshia said.
“It’s a good thing for the kids. They don’t really have a lot of things to do here,” said Choyci Moss, mother of Maci, 8.
The number of volunteers falls off at this time of year, when many families head out for vacations.
“We definitely need volunteers the last few weeks,” Deroshia said.
Action Ministries could also use more corporate sponsors for the summer program, Barger said.
“It’s a really much-needed program.” Deroshia said. “The children just soak up the educational activities, and of course, the food.”