In its very first summer food drive, C.B. Eller Elementary School collected enough contributions to provide a weekly meal for 19 struggling families of more than 30 of its students.
Tammy Darnell, secretary at the school, said year-round staff were concerned children who receive food to take home for the weekends through the backpack program when school is in session might not have enough to eat during the summer. So they sent out a letter seeing which of their parents would like to receive food on a weekly basis while school was out.
Parents of 30 of the 50 students who receive food and other donated items through the backpack program each Friday responded that they would.
Monetary contributions from individuals in the community and three churches — Cool Springs Baptist in Elkin, Maple Springs Baptist in Ronda and Mining Ridge Baptist in State Road — have totaled about $2,400 so far this summer. As donations came in, Darnell said school staff used them to buy food for the students and their families.
Darnell, Principal Chad Mann and custodians Penny Money and Robert Craig have taken turns delivering 50 to 58 bags of food per week to their homes every Thursday or Friday since C.B. Eller closed for the summer. Each home received a family bag providing enough food for one meal and smaller bags for all the children.
Examples of family meals included spaghetti and meatballs, canned chicken and stuffing, corn beef or beef stew with instant potatoes and skillet dinners with tuna.
Bags for students consisted of cereal, snacks, fruit and fruit juices. “We tried to rotate them week to week so they would not get the same thing all the time,” Darnell said. “Everything in them was something they could open themselves like pudding cups and cereal bars.”
Darnell said children looked forward to the weekly dropoffs and got excited when school staff handed them their individual bags. “We had one little boy, when we gave him and his sister their bags, he said, ‘Come on, Sis, let’s go see what we got this time,’” she said. “We did individual bags for children so each child would have one.”
The girl, who will start second grade at C.B. Eller this year, is among the 50 children who took a bookbag full of donated food home each Friday to ensure they have enough to eat on weekends. Sometimes, other donated items such as shampoo and soap are sent home with the students.
This is the first year C.B. Eller has delivered the meals, but Darnell said it will not be the last. “I think it went really well,” she said, “and I think we reached the ones that were in the most need. You can tell that they really appreciate it because they can’t thank you enough for bringing it.
“The need’s there, most definitely, and it wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for those churches and those people who donated.”
School staff began delivering the food bags the week of June 14 and will continue through the week of Aug. 17. The children of families receiving the bags will resume receiving a bookbag of food to take home every Friday for the weekends once school resumes on Aug. 24.
Darnell said the school guidance counselor screens children each year to determine if they can benefit from the backpack program. “The teachers also have input as they see them on a daily basis,” she said.
C.B. Eller, located at 1288 C.B. Eller School Road in Elkin, is part of the Wilkes County School System.
Kathy Chaffin can be reached at 336-258-4058.