Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – The Pickaway County Family YMCA has added a second bus stop location to help local children participate in the free summer lunch program at the Nicholas Drive facility.
Beginning Monday, the white PICCA shuttle now will pick up kids 18 and under at 11:45 a.m. in front of Elsea’s Mobile Village on North Court Street, then head to the city pool at Ted Lewis Park for pick-up at noon.
After a free meal and activities at the YMCA, kids will board the bus at 1:15 p.m. for return to Elsea’s at 1:30 p.m. and the city pool at 1:45 p.m.
In addition to lunch, kids participating in the program get about an hour of free activity time to help work off some summertime energy.
How it works:
Any child 18 and under is welcome to participate in the YMCA’s free summer lunch program that begins about 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday at the Pickaway County Family YMCA on Nicholas Drive.
Kids within walking distance can stop into the facility or have a parent drop them off for lunch and an hour of free activity, regardless of income. YMCA membership is not required to participate.
For kids who are not able to find other transportation, the YMCA offers a shuttle service sponsored by PICCA from two locations in the city – one in front of Elsea’s Mobile Village on North Court Street near Speedway, and the newest stop at the city pool at Ted Lewis Park.
Jeff Phillips, executive director of the Pickaway County Family YMCA, said a recent donation from The Savings Bank helps pay for the shuttle transportation for kids participating in the program, and through a Walmart Foundation grant, the children then get to enjoy one hour of physical activity or games.
A YMCA staff member (like Sarah Dixon, pictured at right) rides the bus each day and collects the name and other pertinent information about each child that boards the bus. That staff member then assists those children through the process and makes sure they are back on the bus for the return trip to their respective bus stops after lunch.
Once at the YMCA, kids visit the lunch area, where they receive a sack lunch generally consisting of a sandwich (bologna, turkey or ham, depending on the day), along with a fruit, a vegetable and milk.
Cordy Boedeker (pictured at right) said the program averages about 63 kids per day during the summer, with lows about 40 and highs at 80 or more.
Participation tends to be higher on Tuesdays, she said, when the Tiger Reading Bus from Circleville Elementary School is on the road. Numbers tend to be lower later in the week.
Boedeker said most of the children she sees for the summer lunch program are older, but that doesn’t keep younger ones from participating. She said there are a couple of 3-year-olds who participate nearly every day, and she has seen children as young as 18 months through high school athletes take advantage of the free meal and YMCA activities.
After lunch, kids are invited to join in a structured activity appropriate to their age level and supervised by YMCA staff members.
Phillips said he is often asked if parents can pay to join their children for lunch, and the answer unfortunately is no. Since lunches are provided through grant funding, only kids 18 and under are eligible.
Parents are welcome, however, to accompany their children and assist with the structured activities after the meal, he said.
The free summer lunch program also is available at the Head Start building on Corwin Street, Phillips said.
Anyone with questions about the program may contact the Pickaway County Family YMCA at 740-477-1661.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal