Fellowship Cup spreads cheer with summer lunch program

All 8,000 summer lunch sacks personalized, decorated thanks to MP Arts IMPACT

GTNS photo by Grace King

Ella Gideon, 13, left, and Emma Wagenknecht, 12, volunteer packing lunch sacks at the Fellowship Cup to hand out to students on Thursday, June 13.
GTNS photo by Grace King Ella Gideon, 13, left, and Emma Wagenknecht, 12, volunteer packing lunch sacks at the Fellowship Cup to hand out to students on Thursday, June 13.

Some glam was added to the Fellowship Cup’s summer lunch program thanks to Henry County residents donating their time and artistic ability to decorate 8,000 brown paper sacks over the past year.

The summer lunch program kicked off on Monday, June 10, serving an average of 180 students a day who are eligible for free and reduced lunch during the school year. That’s a total of 8,000 lunches served to Henry County students during the summer. An extra-special touch is added this summer, however. Each brown lunch sack was personalized and decorated by Henry County residents, an effort coordinated by Mt. Pleasant Arts IMPACT.

“That personal touch, it shows the community is really involved,” said Ken Brown, director of the Fellowship Cup. “The community is what’s special about this program.”

Brown bags were distributed through churches, groups like Kiwanis and Rotary, and through the libraries over the past year to get all 8,000 sacks decorated. Lunches are served Monday through Friday, other than on the Fourth of July, until school resumes for the 2019-2020 academic year. Food is provided by the Food Bank of Southeast Iowa, Walmart, Hy-Vee, Aldi and donations from churches. Lunches are assembled by volunteers every morning.

About 70 students come to the Fellowship Cup on weekdays to pick up their lunch. Meals are also delivered to four locations in Mt. Pleasant and to New London. A group from Salem picks up meals at the Fellowship Cup to take back to students in Salem.

Tamara Doty, coordinator for the summer lunch program, said that the students are “very thankful and respectful” when picking up their lunches.

“The kids in this community are loving this so much. There’s a lot of smiling faces,” Doty said. “I’ve enjoyed it so much, and I really enjoy working with these kind volunteers.”

Shaleen Thiengmany and Kelsey Notestein, 2019 graduates of Mt. Pleasant Community High School, began packing lunches four years ago to get Silver Cord volunteer hours. For both students, however, handing out lunches to children who otherwise may not get lunch during the summer became so much more than checking off volunteer hours.

“I still remember the kids I’ve handed out lunches to over the years,” Notestein said, speculating that it may be her last summer volunteering with the Fellowship Cup as she heads off to college in the fall. “We’re not doing it for Silver Cord anymore, but we still come back and volunteer. I’ve found it’s a lot of fun helping people,” Notestein said.

Thiengmany said that volunteering with the Fellowship Cup helped Mt. Pleasant go from just a place she lived to a community she loves.

“It makes you aware of the needs in our community and reminds you how fortunate you are,” Thiengmany said.

Thiengmany and Notestein aren’t the only Mt. Pleasant Community School District students to find importance in volunteering with the summer lunch program.

Ella Gideon, 13, has volunteered with the Fellowship Cup cleaning up the backroom when she heard about serving lunches and thought it would be a good way for her to help her community.

Emma Wagenknecht, 12, volunteered for the first time on Thursday alongside Gideon.

“It’s pretty exciting seeing the little kids,” Wagenknecht said. “I like helping people.”

While the students filled the decorated brown sacks with food, volunteers from Faith Lutheran Church spread peanut butter and jelly onto bread.

Sandra Speidel said she has been packing lunches for as long as the Fellowship Cup has been providing summer lunches.

“It means kids get lunch,” Speidel said. “Churches are always looking for things to do to help their community. This is an easy one.”

“It’s not hard to slap a sandwich together and count carrots and put them in a bag,” Marty Schumacher said.

Anyone who would like to sign up for meals can apply at the Fellowship Cup at 203 North Jefferson Street in Mt. Pleasant. Volunteers can also sign up at the Fellowship Cup.