Private donor will match up to $10,000
By Jim Newell
Blessings in a Brown Bag is gearing up for another summer of providing free lunches for Lake Orion students, but this year the group has a Facebook fundraiser to help support the program.
“I have a friend who offered to match funds up to $10,000 to get things going,” said Dawn Ames, who started the Blessings in a Brown Bag program. “With the pandemic, we weren’t able to do the fundraising like we normally would.”
In previous years, the lunch program has reached between 150-170 kids. Ames said to meet the program’s goal of reaching even more students, costs will be $34,000 this summer.
“My hope is that we raise quite a bit of money because we’re hoping to be able to increase our reach this year. Our goal is to get up to 200 kids,” Ames said.
Ames, director of Youth Services at Lake Orion United Methodist Church, started the program to help kids who receive the school’s free and reduced lunches. During the school year, students also receive assistance from Blessings in a Backpack.
However, once the school year ends, these students may then be in danger of food insecurity.
That’s where Blessings in a Brown Bag comes in, delivering a healthy lunch to students five days a week.
“The money raised really goes directly to the program,” Ames said. “We are all volunteers. Nobody is getting paid a salary to do this.”
As of Monday morning, 48 people had donated $3,655 toward the $10,000. The lunch program will run from July 1 – Sept. 4.
To help keep costs low – for instance, $170 provides lunch for one child for the duration of the summer program – Ames leverages all of her purchasing power when buying supplies, uses free facilities and operates the program strictly through volunteers.
Lake Orion United Methodist Church donates the use of the kitchen for storing food and packing lunches – there is no overhead to Blessings in a Brown Bag.
Volunteers – mostly parents, grandparents or other caring members of the community – come in at 8 a.m. and began working on preparing the lunches, packing the food into insulated travel bags and, if there is time, preparing what can be prepared for the next day’s lunch. It usually takes about an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
Drivers then load the meals into their vehicles and deliver them on a designated route.
The program does have funds in its account, “However, if I use all of that, then I’m starting at zero next year,” Ames said. “To run the program with 200 kids it’s $34,000.
Donations and Registration
To donate to the Facebook fundraiser, go to facebook.com/lakeorionumc and click on the Fundraisers tab.
Anyone who would like to donate can also mail donations to Lake Orion United Methodist Church, 140 E. Flint St., Lake Orion MI 48362. Make checks payable to the church with “Lunch Program” in the memo line. Check donations will count toward the $10,000 fundraising goal, Ames said.
Registration forms for families who need assistance from Blessings in Brown Bag are on the Lake Orion United Methodist Church website, lakeorionumc.org, under the Home tab and click on Blessings in a Brown Bag Registration Form.
Blessings in a Brown Bag also needs volunteers to help pack lunches and drivers to deliver the meals.
There are two short videos on YouTube that give a position overview and answer frequently asked questions – such as food safety protocol and other guidelines – about being a kitchen volunteer or delivery person. Go to YouTube and type in Blessings in a Brown Bag – Delivery and Blessings in a Brown Bag – Volunteers.
Links to the fundraiser and the training videos will also be available on The Lake Orion Review website, lakeorionreview.com.
Blessings in a Brown Bag packs lunches and delivers every day, Monday-Friday. “We have an 8 a.m. start time for regular kitchen volunteers, but they don’t have to come every day,” Ames said.
Contact Dawn Ames at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 248-563-2399 for donation and volunteer information.