MONTROSE – School children are going hungry in Montrose County, and Colleen Geery decided to do something about it.
Kids always get a meal at school, but family circumstances sometimes leave them short on the weekends. Aware of this issue among school children, in November Geery (40) decided to team up with the Grand Junction Kids Aid program and open up a Montrose chapter. Montrose Kids Aid is now providing backpacks full of food for children at two area schools to take home on the weekends.
The food is nutritious and usually includes a couple of cans of soup, tuna packs with crackers, macaroni and cheese, packs of nuts and fruit, applesauce, oatmeal and breakfast bars.
“Our goal is to try to put in enough food for three dinners, two breakfasts and two lunches,” Geery said. “We want to make it as healthy as possible, and that it can be prepared by a kindergartner and carried in a backpack that is not too heavy.”
According to Geery, different circumstances lead families to be short on food or leave children home alone over the weekend.
“Parents that are struggling financially can use some extra help, and I’ve also heard stories of children whose parents work all weekend and they’re sometimes unattended,” she said.
In Grand Junction, Kids Aid, which began in 2007, contributes about 2,000 backpacks full of food for kids to take home on weekends, Geery said. In Montrose, Johnson Elementary is distributing about 25 backpacks of food per week, and Ridgway schools are receiving 10 backpacks per week.
Johnson Elementary principal Laura Burris said her students are excited about the program, with kids racing to get their backpacks each Friday.
“Some of our children really need their basic needs met,” she said, adding she expects the program to continue to grow.
“There is even more need,” with these hard economic times forcing “a lot of families [to move] in with each other or with grandparents, which makes it even harder on those who do have jobs,” she said. “There are all different levels of need with this economy.”
Geery leaves it up to school administrators to identify children who need the backpacks of food. Students are are not singled out or individually identified by Kids Aid, she said.
As the Montrose program grows, Geery is still contacting schools. Feedback so far has been positive, but more help is needed so she can expand.
As a fundraiser, Geery is organizing “a group of bands from different churches in the area to perform. And we will try to do a golf tournament in May,” she said. “We’re hoping we can increase to 300 backpacks by this coming school year. I think we can meet that goal, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Geery expresses hope that the Kids Aid program will eventually spread to other communities.
“We would like to spread as far as Norwood, Ouray – everywhere. But of course it all depends on funds,” she said. “No one wants to hear of kids that are hungry on the weekends.”
To learn more about the Kids Aid, email Geery at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send donations to Kids Aid, P.O. Box 3628, Montrose 81402.
Grace Community Church will host a fundraiser for Kids Aid on Tuesday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m. There address is 16731 Woodgate Road.