After-school food program starts in Culver

CULVER — Every day, between 10 and 40 students arrive at the Culver Public Library after school. Sometimes, they are waiting for a parent to pick them up. Sometimes, they are biding time before a practice or game. Sometimes they are just studying or hanging out. But they have one thing in common — hunger.

"When the kids come here after school they are always really hungry, especially the teenagers," said Ali Gaskill, youth services manager at the library. "What I saw happening was that they would scrounge up whatever change they could find, go to the gas station, and buy cheap candy to fill their bellies."

Gaskill started offering the students leftover food she had from programs at the library.

"They loved it," said Gaskill.

Culver citizens Sam Bramfeld and Jerry Kisela are undertaking a fundraiser to provide Gaskill with all the money she needs to keep feeding kids at the library for the rest of the school year. Both are participating in Leadership Marshall County, a nine-month program run by the Marshall County Community Foundation.

"We were asked to create a community service type of project," said Kisela. "The library tries to supply snacks with their own resources. We decided that our project would be a youth food program for the library so they can (continue to) provide that after-school snack."
The goal for the fundraising is $1,000. About half of that has already been raised through help from six Culver businesses or individuals.

More is still needed, and Kisela said he's determined to fund the program.

"A lot of kids come to the library as kind of a safe place," said Kisela. "The last time they eat something is maybe 11 a.m., when they eat lunch at school."

Kisela added that the project is offering free advertising to businesses that donate — their name will be placed on a banner at the library.

"We will do this again next year, with maybe an auction or a raffle to reach out more to the public," said Kisela. "The library is setting aside these funds for a youth food program."

"I would like to keep this going every school year," said Gaskill. "It won't be a full meal. I would like to have fruit, veggies, pretzels…stuff that's semi-healthy so they are not just eating junk food. It's important for kids to have an after-school snack. Even myself, being a parent that works it's sometimes 6:30 or 7 p.m. before I get dinner done and my kids eat — and that's a long time to go from an 11 a.m. lunch."

To donate, send checks made out to Culver Public Library (with "youth food program" in the memo line) to Culver Public Library, 107 N Main St., 46511, with attention to Ali Gaskill.

Bramfeld and Kisela are also available to answer questions about the program. Contact them at 217-493-5695 (Sam Bramfeld) or 574-216-6227 (Jerry Kisela).