Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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January 26, 2010

Buddy Bags expanding to more area schools

Eastern, Maple Crest and Western schools to be included in food program.

When Cheyrl Buckley first started looking into expanding Kokomo Urban Outreach’s Buddy Bag program into Eastern Elementary School, she thought maybe there would be 15 children who would need to take home a free bag of food each weekend.

But when the permission slips came back, 45 children had signed up for the program, which provides simple meals for children for the days they are not in school.

“I was just amazed,” she said, adding that people think Greentown is “an affluent little community.”

“I found out the need is bigger than being affluent.”

The first Buddy Bags were delivered at Eastern Elementary School Jan. 8, and according to Jeff Newton, Kokomo Urban Outreach executive director, the program will expand to Maple Crest Elementary Feb. 5. He expects to supply 200 bags per week at that Kokomo school.

He said First Church of the Nazarene is raising money for the Maple Crest program and will provide the volunteers to pack and deliver the bags.

Future expansion plans include the Western Schools, he said, and a group is forming to get started there. They will start in March by giving Buddy Bags to approximately 50 Head Start children at Western.

Newton estimates that by the end of March, Kokomo Urban Outreach and its associated volunteers could be giving bags to 600 to 700 children per week, providing 3,600 to 4,200 meals each weekend.

Newton said the program is expanding as volunteers and funding becomes available. It costs $110 for one child to receive a Buddy Bag each week during the school year.

Buckley, from Greentown, said she was emotional when delivering the first bags to Eastern Elementary.

“I’ve never been hungry. To think there were 45 children at Eastern Elementary that wanted to be part of this program just overwhelmed me. You hear about hunger in bigger cities but you don’t think about it in a farming community. I would want somebody to do this for my grandchildren if they were in need.”

For more information about the Buddy Bags program, or to volunteer or donate, call Kokomo Urban Outreach at 765-457-1983.

• Danielle Rush is the Kokomo Tribune education reporter. She can be reached at 765-454-8585 or danielle.rush@kokomotribune.com.

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