An Ole Seagull’s prayer would be that if you remember nothing else from this column that you would ask yourself what you would do if you were the teacher in the following scenario. It’s Monday morning, you look up from your desk into the distressed eyes of one of your first grade students who says, “My mommy forgot to cook for us this weekend.”
It seems that each week there are newspaper reports about how dysfunctional the Taney County Commissioners are becoming. This week’s report said “A heated discussion among the Taney County commissioners Monday – over the status of an employee’s salary – led to the halt of commission meetings for the day to keep the volatile situation from escalating.”
“Wow Seagull, isn’t the action of the Taney County Commission the most pathetic thing you have ever heard of?” “No. While it certainly is a comedic pathetic illustration of the type of government that no one deserves; it is very definitely not as pathetic as young children in Taney County going hungry or starving over the weekend.”
In the opinion of an Ole Seagull, the really pathetic part is that the Taney County Commissioners are adults and should be able to control their actions and behavior. That lack of control has created the present pathetic dysfunctional morass they are wallowing in. On the other hand, in a pathetic situation entirely beyond their control, hundreds of elementary school children in Taney County find themselves in a situation where they have very little, if any food to eat between the school lunch they receive on Friday and the school meals they receive on Monday.
During an interview with Meghan Connell, the director of the Gift of Hope earlier this week, while talking about all the neat things that the Gift of Hope does, the Ole Seagull almost broke down into tears, when she discussed the Gift of Hope’s “Back Pack Club.”
Before discussing what the Back Pack Club does, it’s critical to understand its scope. It is currently serving hundreds of children in the following schools, Branson Primary, Branson East, Branson West, Kirbyville, Forsyth, Taneyville, Bradlyville and Trinity Christian Academy. It’s also important to note that at this time last year the program just covered three schools Forsyth, Taneyville and Kirbyville.
Connell said, “Basically, the lowdown of the “Back Pack Club” is in all of these schools there are teachers and counselors that have identified children, in particular on Monday morning, who have come in and they are starving. They are hungry.” The purpose of the Club is to make sure that those children get some nutrition over the weekend when there is no food available through the schools. To do that Back Packs are filled food with food and given to the children each Friday. The child brings the empty Back Pack back on Monday morning and the cycle starts again.
Connell said each Back Pack contains an individual serving of Chef Boyardee Ravioli, Chef Boyardee Chicken, Rice and Vegetables, two individual servings of juice, a serving of chocolate milk that requires no refrigeration, a nutrition bar, a “Snack Pack” type dessert that requires no refrigeration and a small individual package of “Gold Finger Crackers.” She said that the foods provided must be “kid friendly” in terms of being able to open and eat and require no cooking.
As the Ole Seagull understands the Back Pack Club it is based on an “on the ground assessment” of an individual child’s needs by a teacher or counselor and not, like a lot of other programs, on statistics and federal guide lines. The program was originated and is primarily funded through the efforts of the employees of the National Enzyme Company in Forsyth. Connell points out that the program also has additional private sponsors, but the demand for the programs services is outstripping the finances available to meet the need.
She emphasized that thanks to the efforts of the National Enzyme Company and its employees and the volunteers in the schools who pack and hand out the Back Packs each week, 100 percent of any additional funds donated through private sources, individuals, or fund raisers goes directly into putting food into the back packs. Not one penny is used for administrative costs.
Hey while you’re at it why not plan to attend the Gift of Hope Fundraiser at Track #3, 2505 W. Hwy 76, Branson from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on October 2 and have a great time with your family at a reduced cost with all of the proceeds going to the Gift of Hope. It’s a win-win situation.
“Ah, Seagull, do you see any way that the County Commissioner situation can turn into a win-win situation?” “Surely that’s a rhetorical question.”