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 Families enjoy dinner from National Coney Island during the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores’ fundraiser for the 2020 Kids Coalition Against Hunger campaign.

Families enjoy dinner from National Coney Island during the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores’ fundraiser for the 2020 Kids Coalition Against Hunger campaign.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Kids helping kids, near and far

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 17, 2020

 Lakeview High School senior Jordan Stone stands in front of the winning logo she created.

Lakeview High School senior Jordan Stone stands in front of the winning logo she created.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — There are hungry people in this community, the next community, the next state and around the world.

Dozens of students are working to change that, one meal at a time.

For the past nine years, students, staff, parents and community members have come together at Lakeview High School to package meals for the Kids Coalition Against Hunger.

Lakeview High School Assistant Principal Heather Huber, the coordinator for Huskies with Heart Junior Optimist Society at Lakeview High School and the coordinator for the K-12 junior optimist clubs in the district, said they were looking for something that students of all ages could participate in and feel like they were making a difference.

That’s actually harder than it sounds, she said, when working with young children.

“You can’t always impact the global realm, philanthropically, with kindergartners,” she said.

But with the Kids Coalition Against Hunger, “It’s really easy to impact globally, nationally and locally, and have a really fun event,” she said. “It’s very well organized.”

Across the district, money is raised to pay for the supplies needed to pack meals of a soy rice casserole that are distributed to local churches, across the country where there is a need, and around the world.

“For example, because Australia is having such a hard time right now” with massive wildfires, “some of the food might actually go there,” Huber said. “If we have natural disasters here, like hurricanes, some of the food goes there.”

About 60 children from the elementary schools and 20 each from Jefferson Middle School and Lakeview High School will participate, along with about 50 adults. While they are packaging the meals, Huber said, the executive director of the Kids Coalition Against Hunger, Michael Burwell, will take time to explain to participants what the meals include, where they are going and why they are needed.

“He explains how long they last and how many people they feed,” she said.

According to Burwell, over the past nine years, those volunteering at Lakeview have packaged more than 140,000 meals, with 60,000 of those distributed to local food pantries and soup kitchens.

Huber said that it’s not just students participating in the event, which this year is set for Jan. 25.

“It’s all of the stakeholders,” she said, including local businesses, staff, parents and students.

“It’s just a really great way to get the whole entire school community together to do something fun,” she said, adding that local people volunteer to DJ during the event; Cliff Stewart, of Stewart’s Photography, comes out to take photographs each year; and the local Little Caesars franchise donates pizza and pop for the volunteers.

It costs $5,600 to pack 20,000 meals, but Huber said it has been getting harder each year to raise the money. The Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores held a Coney Night fundraiser for the event Jan. 15 to help the students raise some of the money.

“It’s a struggle for kids to raise that much money, so this year we decided to step in and give them a hand,” said Debbie DePape, president of the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores.

About 150 people came to the event, which also raised money through a 50/50 raffle. DePape said that, as of press time, she did not have the total amount raised at the event.

Huber said the group is aiming to pack at least 10,000 meals. Donations are still being accepted. Anyone wishing to donate can contact any of the schools in Lakeview Public Schools to donate.

“We absolutely love this event,” Huber said. “It’s very exciting. We have a lot of fun doing it.”

DePape said the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores also awarded Jordan Stone, a senior at Lakeview High School, with a certificate of recognition and $50 for creating the winning logo for the club, which has never had its own logo before. Eighteen students across all three St. Clair Shores high schools submitted logo designs.

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