Students who live in and around Fayette County are eligible to receive free summer meals at The Well at Sunnyside and volunteers are needed to help get families on their feet, according to Chiquita Nash.
Nash is the free store director of The Well at Sunnyside and has been working to provide students with summer lunch meals since the school year ended.
The Kids’ Cafe Summer Lunch Program is part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program aimed at providing 200 million free meals to kids 18 and younger in the United States.
According to Nash, The Well at Sunnyside in Washington CH serves 60 lunch meals to kids each day and that number is expected to grow.
The Well at Sunnyside is a Christian ministry organization that complies with federal laws and the USDA to provide services to community members in need of lunch meals until school resumes again in August.
“We are always in need of volunteers. Kid’s Cafe Summer Lunch Program is for kids in need and we are in need of volunteers for that. We’ll take as many [volunteers] as we can get,” said Nash.
The Kids’ Cafe Summer Lunch Program hosts kids for two hours, in which time they are fed lunch, provided with a snack, and can choose to participate in extracurricular activities.
“Kids come and they stay here two-and-a-half hours. We can do games, Bible study, crafts,” said Nash.
The number of lunch meals served will change, according to Nash, depending on what families are doing throughout the summer.
“Last summer was 95 [lunch meals a day]. It depends on if the kids on vacation, some kids go to camp. The most we have ever served is 95 kids in a day,” said Nash.
In addition the Kids’ Cafe Summer Lunch Program, The Well at Sunnyside provides services to families and individuals. Clients can come in to get help not only with food and meals, but for different things, like household items and laundry.
“We have over 1,600 families that we serve as of right now,” said Nash. “We don’t turn anybody away if they show they have a need.”
The Well at Sunnyside is entirely staffed by volunteers from the community. Nash said they are in need of more volunteers to fill a variety of other positions and perform special duties or niche services.
“We always have a need of plumbers or electricians that can come and work on our stuff. We have some things that need updated and we just don’t have a budget for that. It would be nice if someone could give their time and their services. For people in the community who want to give back, we always have a need for that kind of thing. We have a need for kitchen help, free store help, Loads of Love help. There are a lot of things we need help with. We would like to have a cook. We could use someone to help cook our community meals,” said Nash.
Nash said people come to The Well at Sunnyside for help due to many different reasons.
“They are having a hard time at work, some people can’t make enough money, some people can’t just make ends meet. Some people come because they’ve lost a job,” said Nash.
Although the April 2016 unemployment rate for Fayette County is 4.5 percent, that calculation does “not adequately capture the breadth of labor market problems” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, because that calculation does not include marginalized people, retired people, seasonal workers, temporary workers, part-time workers, homemakers, those not actively seeking a job, and discouraged workers who had not searched for work in the four weeks prior to the BLS survey.
“The job market in Fayette County is really slim and some of those that do have jobs, it’s still hard to make ends meet,” said Nash. “Our hope is to help people get more self-sufficient to where they don’t need us, but until they get to where they need to be, we are always here to help.”
Nash said The Well at Sunnyside has been a success for the community.
“We have had people that have got on their feet, and now some of them are volunteers and they come donate monetarily or donate their items. People we help get on their feet come and give back,” said Nash.
Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0356 or on Twitter @ashbunton.