ELKHART — Last year, Barb Loucks heard a story from her friend — a teacher in Elkhart Community Schools — about kids who come to school needing food, coats, boots and other basics.
She asked her friends and family to donate and used the money to buy food for Mary Beck Elementary students to take home near Christmas time. This year, she’s expanded her project to include Roosevelt Elementary and the Boys and Girls Club of Goshen.
“The contents of these baskets are simple, but it’s more than some families have,” Loucks said.
The food that she buys — ham, green beans, potatoes and rolls — is distributed to families by school employees who know which families might need a little extra.
Danielle Miller, a social worker at Roosevelt, said school staff is excited to give these baskets to families because they contain “Christmas extras.”
“Giving this will ensure they have a Christmas meal,” she said Monday, Dec. 16, after packing the food baskets. “Our families have food, but to go out and buy Christmas extras — a lot of them wouldn’t do that.”
Loucks said she’s not looking for any more money for her project. Instead, she hopes to inspire other people to meet needs they see in their community.
“Find a cause that brings you joy and also breaks your heart,” she advises.
Loucks said that she doesn’t know which families will receive food baskets, and that’s how she wants it. She asks people who give her money for the project to also sign a “Merry Christmas” note to be placed in the food baskets. That way, she said, families who get a basket know the person who was thinking of them.
Tonda Hines, parent support coordinator at Roosevelt, said that school staff will try to “spread the wealth” and give food baskets to as many families as possible.
But for families with four to six kids, “we may give them two (baskets),” she said.
“We check family size,” Hines said, adding that the contents of one basket will feed about four or five people.
“Kids who get baskets may live in families who have to stretch food,” she said. “I’m sure this is just a bonus for them, to get them through that next month.”
Loucks brought enough food to Roosevelt and Mary Beck to make 40 food baskets for each school. Another 20 food baskets will be put together and distributed to kids who attend the Boys and Girls Club of Goshen.
Her goal next Christmas, she said, is to continue targeting elementary schools that have a high percentage of students getting free or reduced lunch.
“Next year I will do Hawthorne, Monger and Beardsley,” she said decidedly.