The First Baptist Church of Diana wanted to help the students of its small community in Diana, Texas. It was 2007, and one of the parishioners was concerned that the students who participated in meal programs during the school year would go hungry over the summer without the same assistance. Knowing they wanted to do something but needing additional help, they called Nancy Essary, who had just finished her first year as site coordinator for Communities In Schools of East Texas and was rumored to help match community resources to student needs.
“Your phone will ring. There is someone on the other end, and the person either is offering something or need something. And either way works well. What this all boils down to is relationships – having a relationship with another organization that wants to help,” said Essary.
Essary coordinated with the New Diana Independent School District (NDISD) to find students’ addresses and phone numbers, and to get parent permission slips signed. This allowed the church to focus on planning the logistics of purchasing, preparing and delivering lunches. Five days a week for nine weeks, starting the first weekday after school let out and ending the last weekday before school started, church and school staff volunteers delivered lunches across Diana.
Since that fateful phone call five years ago, the site coordinator estimates that this joint partnership has served approximately 7,500 lunches to students.
This past summer, about 75 church members and several school administrators from NDISD joined forces to plan and drop off lunches to nearly 25 students of all ages. Oftentimes, delivering those meals means driving miles from the community center, down unpaved roads and to homes that literally are in the middle of nowhere. Many of the children may see no one else but their family and the volunteers for the entire summer.
For Essary, not only does the summer program give students nourishment, but it also serves as a great opportunity to make sure other student needs are met as well.
“The point is that we are bringing another caring adult into their lives,” she said. “They are hearing another positive voice, and that is just a win-win across the board.”
In the past, there was a donor who bought the lunch meat and bread for the summer program. This year, Essary said most of the food was purchased out of pocket by the church volunteers and school staff.
Despite the shortage in funding, the program never has turned a student away. In fact, when volunteers learn that a family may need more than just lunch delivered, the church finds a way to provide groceries or meals on the weekend, too.
To Nancy Essary, this summer lunch program is a living example of Communities In Schools’ mission to surround students with a community of support.
“This is the true heart of Communities In Schools – partnering with these other organizations. It’s always a team effort, and everyone has the same vision and focus of what will help these students achieve their potential.”
Check out some fantastic photos of Nancy Essary and the lunch program!