Area churches and businesses are working with First Presbyterian Church this summer to provide daily meals to local youth free of charge.
During the summer, program volunteers provide, serve or deliver lunches to children registered with The Beacon, a local community assistance agency and food pantry.
Grace Hardwick, First Presbyterian director of children's ministry and this year's organizer, said the goal of the service is to "try and fill the gap" during the summer that the school lunch program fills during the school year.
"There is a need for it that isn't being filled otherwise," Hardwick said.
Approximately 1,025 students receive free lunches during the school year and another 214 get reduced prices, representing more than half the students in the district, USD 234 Business Manager Tiffany Forrester said.
About 65 youngsters benefit from the program, which began roughly two years ago and functioned solely on a walk-in basis.
Hardwick said only 20 to 30 kids were being fed under the former set-up, so she decided to try and "revamp it and fill more of a need with the community."
Volunteers continue to serve about 20 meals at Buck Run Community Center between 11:30 a.m and 12:30 p.m. with walk-ins still welcome.
But with the implementation of the meals on wheels concept through Fort Scott Community College, an additional 45 repasts are being dropped off at various locations, or in some cases, volunteers deliver the food to the front door of a residence.
Based on need, three delivery locations were set up: First Presbyterian Church, 308 Crawford; Fort Scott Middle School parking lot, 1105 E 12th; and the corner of Broadway and Wall Street across from First Church of God, 1115 E. Wall.
Human Resources Director Juley McDaniel and Director of Public Relations Kathleen Hinrichs have spent a little more than an hour delivering meals on behalf of the college within the past couple of weeks.
Hinrichs sent out an email on Monday seeking more volunteers and has added 10 more FSCC faculty and staff members to the ranks.
Hinrichs said everyone is "really appreciative" of the service. She said it was something FSCC President Clayton Tatro was "very passionate" about when he volunteered the college's assistance.
"For me, it's just another way we can be seen in the community," Hinrichs said, "not only as individuals, but the college as well. Our motto is we put the college into the community and the community into the college."
"It's important to have that exposure and be able to help kids in the summer. It's been a really rewarding program and I'm happy we get to be a part of it and I've been able to help out," she added.
In conjunction with other churches in the area, the program has enlisted the help of local businesses for volunteers and monetary donations this year. The city of Fort Scott also agreed to provide food for a day.
UMB Bank employees showed their support on June 12, serving spaghetti, a hot roll, cookies and a juice box.
UMB Banking Center Manager Heather Griffith was one of five employees who gave of her time for the afternoon.
"We thought it would be a great thing for the bank to do for the kids of our community," Griffith said. "You know, it just made me feel good to be able to help the kids in our community who may not get it otherwise."
It takes about $100 a day to provide food for those in need, Hardwick said. It takes another two or three people to serve the food at Buck Run Community Center and two people for the home deliveries.
The meals vary from day to day, ranging from tacos with rice and beans to spaghetti to sandwiches and "everything in between."
Hardwick said some businesses donated to the cause while others provided their own food and served it. If someone wants to participate, there is a spot for them and "however they want to help out," she said.
The program began June 11 and runs through Aug. 17 -- the week before school starts.
The appreciation from those who receive the lunches is endless, Hardwick said, with parents and kids alike thanking their servers.
"They love it and they enjoy the fact they are getting something different every day. I see so many smiles on kids' faces and that's what it's all about, reaching these kids and showing them they are cared about and loved," Hardwick said. "It's unfortunate that kids today don't necessarily know that they are valued and important ... They now can see a community that is willing to reach out to them."