Acts of Kindness: New Day Arlington Ensures Students Don’t Go Hungry on Weekends

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There are many questions that run through a child’s mind on a daily basis. Wondering where his or her next meal is coming from should never be one of them, and New Day Arlington is working to ensure that no student in the community is left hungry when the doors to the school – and for many, free breakfast and lunch programs – close for the weekend.

More than 10 years ago, Grace Presbyterian Church of Arlington recognized that there were students at AISD elementary schools who didn’t always have access to meals on the weekends. Volunteers at the church began packaging bags of non-perishable foods that were then delivered to the schools and distributed to students by way of a counselor.

What began as an outreach ministry of one church to a handful of AISD elementary schools has become a fully-fledged nonprofit organization based out of three Arlington churches – Grace Presbyterian, Westminster Presbyterian, and Trinity United Methodist – providing as many as 600 bags of food per week to more than 30 elementary, junior high, and high schools in Arlington.

“We try to get students through the weekend,” New Day volunteer Betty Sicks said. “As a former teacher, I know you can’t do well in school if you’re hungry.”

The City of Arlington is spotlighting acts of kindness happening throughout our community as part of its Kindness Initiative, which launched earlier this year. Mayor Jeff Williams has challenged residents to report acts of kindness through the City’s free Ask Arlington mobile app, on the Acts of Kindness website, or by posting using #ArlingtonKindness and @CityofArlington over the next year.

Sicks said AISD counselors identify students on their campuses who may be hungry or food insecure, then contact New Day to request a certain number of bags of food each week. New Day volunteers then pack plain, unmarked plastic bags with shelf-stable foods and drinks such as breakfast bars, oatmeal, fruit cups, cereal, and macaroni and cheese. The bags are delivered to the schools at the end of each week and discreetly distributed by the counselors.

Sicks has served as New Day’s board secretary since 2013, and she recognizes the extraordinary level of kindness that comes from the organization’s many volunteers and donors.

“Our volunteers do everything,” Sicks said. ‘We have people who are homebound who wrap plasticware and napkins. We have shoppers, [then] the food has to be shelved. We depend on prayer, money, and volunteers.”

With food and supply costs averaging $14,000 per month and climbing, New Day relies not only on volunteer power, but on grants, monetary, and in-kind donations.

“New Day exists only through donations and grants,” volunteer site coordinator Sandra Morris said. “The three churches that participate in New Day have amazing volunteers who have made a weekly commitment to the students of AISD.”

Morris and her husband, Don, have volunteered with New Day for three years, and currently act as site coordinators for the Westminster location. They recruit fellow volunteers, organize the production room, and coordinate the packing and delivery of food each week.

The City of Arlington is grateful for organizations such as New Day Arlington for helping to make The American Dream City a great place to live, learn, work and play. Arlington is participating in the #ChooseKind City initiative and encourages residents and visitors to participate in acts of kindness this week leading up to World Kindness Day on Monday, November 13.

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