Misericordia social work students plan night of music, fun and food at Ole Tyme Charley’s in Plains to benefit Dinners for Kids program
With a little help from some Misericordia students, Dinners for Kids is expanding to a second school district, bringing the number of children who get free and nutritious meals to nearly 200.
Created in 2011 by David and Edna Tevet, owners of Ollie’s American Restaurant in Edwardsville, the Dinners for Kids Program has succeeded and grown in providing nutritionally balanced meals for undernourished children in the Wyoming Valley West school district. Two years into collaborative efforts with the Misericordia University Department of Social Work, two students are organizing a fundraiser for the non-profit.
The benefit takes place from 4 to 9 p.m. March 20 at Ole Tyme Charley’s Restaurant and Pub, 31 South River St., Plains. A $25 donation will treat guests to a buffet of pizza, wings and beverages, raffles, games and prizes, and live music from After Hours, No Vacancy and Dead Giveaway. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Ollie’s. Tickets for college students are $15, adults $20. Proceeds benefit the Dinners For Kids Program in support of its new expansion to the Dallas school district.
Inspiration for the event came from social work students and Wilkes-Barre residents Liz Saba and Bill Faust. At a social work club meeting, they were challenged by Dr. Susan McDonald to come up with good fundraising ideas for Dinners For Kids.
“She has provided us with the creative freedom to do this and supported us in our efforts,” Saba said of McDonald.
Faust took that creative freedom and put forth a format.
“I suggested doing a concert, because I’m a fan of live music, and I know music tends to bring people together,” Faust said.
The bands were quick to donate their time and equipment to support a good community cause, Faust said.
“Childhood hunger affects everybody,” Saba said. “It affects the community. It stretches out to everybody. It’s so cost effective to be able to provide these kids with these meals, so they can grow up and be contributing people in our society.”
David Tevet said the program was built upon his interest in childhood hunger and the realizations he came to after doing research.
“I found out childhood hunger is a major problem in the United States,” he said. “Everybody always thinks it’s something just affecting third world countries, but we have childhood hunger right here.”
The effects of childhood hunger go beyond the physical pain of going unfed, Tevet said.
“I found out, also, it’s not only the suffering of going to sleep on an empty stomach, but it also has an adverse effect on the children’s physical and mental health, on their behavior and learning ability.”
After examining the government programs in place, Tevet felt food stamps and free school lunch programs were falling short of solving the problem so he came up with a solution.
“The best solution is to provide hungry children, who for one reason or another don’t get a decent meal at home, a nutritious and balanced, prepared dinner in a microwave safe container,” Tevet said.
Tevet started with 40 children in the Wyoming Valley West school district, and the program has grown to help 120 children. More children will be added as Dinners for Kids expands to the Dallas school district.
“We started working with Misericordia two years ago, because we figured the families we serve food to need other services besides food,” Tevet said.
Katie Barnes of Mountain Top is an intern with the program through Misericordia Social Work Department. She helps educate parents on providing balanced nutrition to their children, assists in filling out LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) applications, arranges transportation for medical appointments and suggests measures of counseling when appropriate.
Childhood poverty and hunger is prevalent even in our most affluent school districts, Barnes said.
“Twenty four percent of students in the Dallas school district are food insecure,” Barnes said. “Most people think Dallas is a high-end school district and they don’t need help. Statistics are telling us otherwise.”
Meals are prepared at Ollie’s where volunteers package food in microwave safe containers and deliver them to families with children enrolled in the program. The program donates six meals per week to each child on an anonymous basis.
“Even the drivers and volunteers have to sign confidentiality statements, so they can’t go home and talk about who they’re serving,” Faust said.
Tevet said the program is completely replicable and can be used by other districts and food service organizations. Metz Culinary Management will prepare meals for the newly expanded Dallas branch of the program.
With 160 children soon involved in Dinners for Kids, the yearly bill totals around $110,000; each meal only costs $2.20 to prepare. Tevet said the need for fundraising events like the one Saba and Faust organized are vital to the program’s continuation.
“We depend on private donations and grants and fundraising events to raise the money we need every year,” Tevet said. “If we can provide children with food for every day of the year, we solved the problem, and it’s economical and effective.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter@TLArts
IF YOU GO:
What: Benefit for the Dinners for Kids Program featuring After Hours, No Vacancy and Dead Giveaway
Where: Ole Tyme Charley’s, 31 South River St., Plains
When: 4 to 9 p.m. March 20
Additional information: Advanced tickets are available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from now through March 20. Advanced adult tickets cost $20, and student tickets cost $15 with valid ID. Tickets will cost $25 for adults the day of the event.