The Walmart Foundation has awarded Canal Winchester Human Services $100,000 to establish programing to fight childhood hunger.
Through Walmart's Fighting Hunger Together fall initiative, two Ohio residents were chosen randomly via a Facebook contest to receive Golden Spark Awards.
These winners, Pam Gredicak and Jenny Butts, were presented with $50,000 each to donate to a local charity. Both are active supporters of Canal Winchester Human Services and chose to donate the funds to start a new initiative to fight childhood hunger.
"Our goal is to make sure these kids who need it leave school on Friday with at least one meal for each weekend day," Human Services Administrator Penny Miller said. "Prior to getting the award, Lisa (Zurbriggen) and I met with the Youth-to-Youth group at the school to figure out how we might do something like this, and coincidentally, Jenny is their adviser.
"At the meeting, I met Nicole Tennison (a junior at Canal Winchester High School) who suggested calling the project 'Feeding Our Future.' With her permission, and now that we have some funding, we're now able to call the project just that."
According to Miller, the desire to implement a backpack program like this has been discussed by many local groups for the past year. Local United Methodist churches helped secure a $2,000 grant for startup, but more extensive funding wasn't readily available.
"We are proud of our local community for participating in Walmart's Golden Spark promotion," Miller said. "Their thoughtfulness has allowed us the opportunity to receive this award.
"But the purpose of this award is only for this new initiative to provide income-eligible children -- who are registered for free breakfast and lunch programs at school -- food on the weekends."
Although $100,000 is a generous amount of money, Miller said, the need is so great it won't cover everything.
"If you do the math, the award requires us to cover three years, and between Canal Winchester schools and Bloom Carroll schools, there are 1,100 eligible kids. Even if we assume 650 participate, that's less than $2 per meal," Miller said. "We are also limited to no more than $4,000 of this going to overhead each year, which includes things like gas to go buy the food and to deliver the bags."
Miller cited research into a similar program being run in Kettering, Ohio, that spends about $4.50 per meal.
"So it's important to continue to receive donations so we can make up the difference," she said. "This project is going to need the community to come together. However, I can't ever say thank you enough to our supporters."
Gender Road Walmart store manager Doug Hayes said he was proud of being a part of this award and a partner with Human Services.
"We've always had a good relationship so I'm excited we can grow that through Walmart's Fighting Hunger initiative," Hayes said.
The Feeding Our Future project is anticipated to officially start in January 2013, Miller said, once the first $50,000 is released to fund the program and participant applications have been processed.
Another Human Services program currently under way, Adopt a Family, will be the benefactor of the Nov. 23 Foundation Game, a Canal Winchester High School charity basketball game versus Licking Heights. All proceeds from the game will benefit the Adopt a Family program fund.
"I hope people will come out and support our basketball team as well as the Adopt a Family program," Miller said.
For more information about donating to any of the Human Services programs, visit cwhumanservices.org.