WILLIAMSTON, Mich. — Marsha Whitman has found another purpose in life.
“I've been doing this since I think 2021," Whitman said. “I'm retired, and it gives me a purpose sometimes just to give back a little bit. I don't need to play every day.”
And 8-year-old Bailey Cartwright is just starting to figure out one of hers.
“I thought it would be helpful for the children who don't have enough money to buy their own food,” Bailey said.
Another thing they have in common is volunteering with Weekend Survival Kits.
“We're packing food kits for children, mostly in Ingham County here," said Director of Operations Kyla Parkllan.
As Parkllan kicked off the first volunteer event of the year, they packed, packed and packed over 1,000 kits for 63 schools.
“Students often times will receive free and reduced school lunch during the school week. They won't have food over the weekend," Parkllan said. "They come to school on Monday morning, it's tough to concentrate. It's tough to learn. So we want to give them the best chance at learning to succeed at school.”
It all started in 2010. The food now comes in pre-packaged baggies from the Greater Lansing Food Bank, but it didn't used to be that way.
“When I first started, we used to have an assembly line to pack these things, but now, they come like this," Whitman said.
Now, the volunteers pack those baggies in a plastic bag with a special note.
"It seems like a really silly task, but it's really important," Parkllan said. "It conceals its contents. We would never want a child to get made fun of for taking these bags home. We don't want that to be a reason that they wouldn't opt into our program. So we want to conceal what's inside.”
Each kit comes with well balanced snacks and meals.
“We want to make sure that everything in the kit is something that a child would eat, otherwise, it's still just gonna sit on their shelf," Parkllan said. "So we've got things like mac and cheese, and ramen and peanut butter, and we've got these great little shelf stable yogurts, cans of tuna, anything like that.”
After the finish packing the bags, volunteers drive them to participating schools and drop them off.
“We will have drivers that come through, and we will load up their cars with however many kids are assigned to that school," Parkllan said. "So some drivers take five some drivers take 150 some schools we have to send to drivers too because they receive so many kits.”
Even though they might not see the kids who get the kits, they know they're making a difference.
“You're not only that you are feeding a child, but that you're showing a child who struggles with food insecurity that somebody cares about them," Parkllan said. "So we're not just feeding them, we're also showing them love in the community.”
For Marsha, she's known for a while she can make a difference.
“The children are so innocent, and you want them to have the best right off the get go," Whitman said. "So I feel good when I help out.”
And Bailey is just starting to figure it out, one bag at a time.
“You can just get bags and pack some food up, and it's really cool,” she said.
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