This year the Projects committee will be focusing in a new direction. In addition to our two continuing projects, Thanks for Giving Baskets (TFGB) and GIFT, we will be working on offering members volunteer credit for time spent volunteering with our local partners within their own schedules. Our Main focus this year is GRACE, aimed at eliminating food insecurity within our service area. We are also looking out for needs that may arise within the community that the JLS may be able to assist with as a special project.
GRACE stands for Giving and Receiving Assistance for Our Community’s Essentials. Going without basic necessities and food insecurity seem like foreign subjects in an affluent town such as Summit. Yet last year Summit’s Assistant Superintendent reported that 15% of all enrolled students in the Summit Schools are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. The Summit Schools’ administration believes this number is underreported.
GRACE’s Refrigerator was open this fall on Sundays afternoons at Central Presbyterian Church and Thursday evenings at Christ Church. The refrigerators offer Summit residents free fresh food. This food comes from the farmer’s market, local businesses, and the Community Food Bank. Now that the Farmers Market closed for the season the Refrigerator will remain open on Thursday evenings at Summit’s Christ Church. During our pilot program from September 11 to November 20, 2016, we have distributed 9,433 pounds of produce, bread, dairy, prepared food to 1,766 people of whom 989 are kids and 73 are senior citizens. On average, the Refrigerator serves 35 families a week. Each week we serve new families; the numbers continue to grow.
On November 18, the YMCA, the United Way, the Community Food Bank and the Junior League of Summit launched weekend food distribution based on the Community Food Bank’s Family Pack program. 69 families from Jefferson Elementary and Primary Center currently receive these packs of food each week, with a double installment before school vacations. Next year we will enroll families from the other Summit elementary schools.
GRACE’s Impact on Food Insecurity
Over the five Mondays in August families gathered for entertainment and food distribution, dubbed Family Fun Night. Food insecure children and their parents enjoyed movies, cooking, games, yoga, dance, and swimming. Each family received a bag of groceries and a chance to shop the free farm stand of rescued produce. During this month, we distributed 136 bags of groceries and 1,000 pounds of fresh produce rescued from the Summit Farmer’s Market.
Bridges Outreach had asked for the JLS’s help with their annual Community Christmas Party. The League was able to provide volunteers for the day of the party as well as 24 wrapped presents for the children and 25 - $15 Shoprite Gift Cards for the families.
At the September GMM, the JLS put together craft bags and family care packages for Family Promise to be distributed during the Family Promise Host Nights.
The JLS reaches out to our service area schools for donations of food for our Thanks for Giving Baskets. We have collected more than enough food year after year to help these organizations feed their beneficiaries with ample amounts left over to stock their pantries. We will continue to work with Bridges, SHIP, Homefirst and AIDS Resource Foundation for Children.
In October and February, the JLS helps out Calvary Church by taking 2-3 Host Nights over during their week of hosting Family Promise Families. The JLS provides dinner on these nights, volunteers to mingle with the families, do crafts with the kids and entertain them to give the parents a break. The league also has provided a special service for the parents on one of the 3 nights ranging from Massages to Yoga exercises. This is a great opportunity to bring your children along to volunteer!