(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Area kids are only weeks away from starting school, either online or in-person, but the pandemic has added an extra challenge for families to afford back-to-school costs this year.
Because of the strains families may be feeling this year, a local organization held a back-to-school supplies drive thru.
“That’s what we do on this corner. We lift Jesus’ name up, we have fun and we want the kids to be kids,” said Sheila Gilbert, Founder of Food for Kids.
Food for Kids is known in the community for feeding midtown. The organization provides lunches to 150 kids each weekday during the summer when kids are out of school to fill that meal gap for students relying on those free or reduced lunches the school district provides.
But the COVID-19 pandemic halted Food for Kids' services this summer.
“Due to COVID-19, Wellspring Church took over for us this summer. So, since the summer was over for the kids, we decided to lift their spirits back up,” said Sheila Gilbert.
So, instead the organization held a back-to-school drive thru to make up for time lost. “What we’re doing is bringing the community together for underwear, kids’s masks and lunches,” said Sheila Gilbert.
All items at the drive thru were donated by the community to help the kids in need prepare for school and remind them they aren't alone, pandemic or not.
“The neighborhood is still thinking about them,” said Kenzie Gilbert, Co-founder of Food for Kids.
Sheila Gilbert said the pandemic has greatly impacted the neighboring families. “The parents have lost their jobs.The children have been depressed and inside. We have developed relationships with them and we wanted to let them know that we still love them, we’re still interested in them and we’re thinking about them. So, in order to do that, we had to bring something back to the community to keep our babies loved and surrounded with fun and joy."
Kids have been through a lot of trials this year with the health crisis affecting every aspect of their lives, including how and if they can go to school.
“My mom said, ‘okay, you’re not going online, you’re going to school,’ and it was a big argument cause I wanted to be online and not bring it back to my grandmother,” said Suriaya, a young volunteer at Food for Kids Drive Thru.
Suriaya is going into third grade online. While she said the decision was tough on her family, she said it feels to get out and help others in need.
“Especially cause some people are from the flood that happened a couple weeks ago, so I’m just glad to be out here helping everybody,” said Suriaya.
The Gilberts said preparing the neighboring kids for this new challenge was rewarding, but reunited with the children was the best part of the event.
“It has been overwhelming, it has been fulfilling and it lifted our spirits because we missed them," said Sheila Gilbert.
The back-to-school drive thru was held August 7th from 10 a.m. until all supplies were handed out.