By Scott Sullivan
The holiday food drive season abounds with tales of generosity. Knowing hunger is year-round, leaders of the new 501c3 nonprofit Children First Lakeshore saw their coffers — which translates to weekly food backpacks for 168 local elementary children — filled last week with two new donations:
• $6,200 from Women Who Care of Allegan County, and
• $2,500 from the Sauga-tuck-Douglas Rotary Club.
“Our board,” said George Stoutin, who with fellow financial professional and local resident Ron Collins started CFL last year, “believes that every child deserves access to food each and every day.
“There are many pockets of poverty within Allegan County where children are unable to receive healthy and nutritious meals so vital to physical, mental and emotional well-being.
“By increasing access to food, our goal is to ensure that the children of Allegan County are well nourished and able to reach their full potential,” Stoutin said.
The effort, which started in 2017, rolled out a pilot program in April providing Friday backpacks filled with one full meal for a family plus zip-lock baggies containing one kid’s breakfast, one lunch, plus snacks for 35 Douglas Elementary School students who signed up for it.
This year the DES number has risen to 39 youths, plus Children First Lakeshore has added 129 Fennville Elementary School students who enrolled in the program.
“It’s a different dynamic in Fennville,” said Stoutin. “Close to 74 percent — 444 of some 600 students — are eligible for federal free or reduced lunch programs.
“As we establish ourselves in that district, the number of kids signing up may rise.”
He calls the CFL board — Abby Bigford, Joseph Blodgett M.D., Tim Lemanski, Glen McNeil, Martia Metcalf and Sharon Shanahan — terrific.
“We’re projecting a $50,000 budget for 2019,” said Stoutin. “Our costs are about $5 per bag. It’s important the food we pack is quality and nutritional.
“We believe we are filling a gap and look forward to continue collaboration with Douglas Christian Neighbors, Kids Food Basket of Holland, local churches and more,” he said.
While CFL is the fund-raising arm, Community Church of Douglas provides working hands for its efforts, procuring food and providing assembly-line packing Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.
More volunteers are welcome for not only that effort, but placing bags Fridays in Fennville Elementary students’ lockers.
Also needed, said Rotarian and CCL member Chris Yoder, are plastic grocery bags. These can be left in the church office, 6780 Wiley Road, Douglas, during the week or at the information center in either foyer Sundays. For more information, call the church office at (269) 857-1492.
“We seek donors,” said Stoutin, “willing to make at least three-year commitments. It’s important this be sustaining.”
He thanked Sherri White for making the presentation that secured Women Who Care’s donation.
“The beauty of Women Who Care,” member Kristi Van Howe said, “is sharing collective wisdom and modest, $100 quarterly donations to directly help local charities.
“No need to buy fancy shoes or dresses to go to charity events. We are making a difference here and that’s gratifying,” she said. For more information, visit womenwhocareofallegancounty.weebly.com.
“There’s no end of opportunities to serve human needs,” said Stoutin. “We are blessed to have opportunities.”
Save the date Sunday, June 2, for the first annual CFL fundraiser at Saugatuck Yacht Club. Want to know more about how you can help? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (269) 857-5626.
By Scott Sullivan