For nine weeks over the summer, IMPACT Bethel staff members, with help from community volunteers, provided free lunches every weekday at Smith Park in Park Layne and Raynor Park in Park Layne.
From June 6 to August 5, more than 2,900 lunches were served to local kids, an average of 63 meals per day.
On any given weekday, 12 to 34 children ate lunch at Smith Park, with a daily average of 18. Ultimately, more than 900 lunches were distributed at Smith Park.
Attendance was higher at Raynor Park, with an average of 45 kids -- and up to 60 -- eating each day. By August 5, more than 2,000 lunches were served at the Raynor site.
According to IMPACT Bethel Director Mert Christmann, much of the lunch program's success can be attributed to Katybeth Jones, Megan Christmann, Baylee Pursifull and Toni Rogers, who bought, prepared, and served the food on a daily basis.
"They did a great job of planning and delivering a variety of hot and cold meals. all while staying without our budget," said Christmann.
New this year was a reading program implemented at the Park Layne site.
An anonymous donor contributed tubs of books, and on Thursdays, Kristin Kosey and her son Stephen helped children select and sign out books.
Everyone who took part was given a McDonald's gift certificate, and participants names were entered into a drawing for Subway gift cards.
"We couldn't have added the reading program without the Koseys' help," noted Christmann. "They did a fantastic job for us." "We have so many local supporters," said Christmann, "and we are thankful for each and every one of them."
Christmann said special thanks go out to JoAnn Porter, Angie Jones, Carol Dutton, and Judy Kindred for volunteering their time and efforts. Several local churches -- including Colonial Baptist Church, Good Shepherd United Methodist, Church of the Brethren, and New Carlisle First United Methodist Church -- also provided essential and much-appreciated support, she added.