Janesville School District, community raise $40,000 for Bags of Hope

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Andrea Anderson
Saturday, December 14, 2013

JANESVILLE — As a holiday rendition of “Jump, Jive an' Wail” echoes in the Landair Distribution Warehouse early Saturday morning, Elise Allen is hard to miss.

She's quick. She's jolly.

She packs two loaves of bread in each grocery bag that approaches, whips an empty crate out of the way, and keeps packing — all with a smile on her face and reindeer antlers atop her head. 

As part of the Janesville School District's fifth annual Bags of Hope food supply event, Allen, and 174 other volunteers, donated their time Saturday to pack grocery bags full of food that made their way to more than 350 district families and 50 senior citizens.

“I have fun and it makes me feel good to help others,” Allen, a mother of a Craig High School freshman, said as she snuck bread into two bags to keep the line going.

As for the antlers, “it's to get into the Christmas spirit,” Allen said with a smile.

This year, the district met its goal of raising $40,000 to the purchase food that will provide two weeks of groceries for those in need.

The intent is to ensure students who depend on meals during the school week are eating during the two weeks of winter break.

The poverty level in the school district is at about 50 percent, Superintendent Karen Schulte, said.

“You all are delivering hope to our community,” Schulte said to the army of volunteers. “Thank you for your service.” 

District social workers compile a list of families that receive the donated items. Among the groceries included are fruit, vegetables, cereals, soda, milk, and non-perishable items.

The school district purchases a portion of the food from Woodman's, Seneca donates some food, and Landair donates the facility and needed equipment. Volunteers were from the school district, various city of Janesville departments and other community businesses.

Last year, staff, students, community members and businesses donated more than $43,000.

Lisa Mentz, a senior at Craig High School, works the assembly line where high school students pack potatoes, oranges, carrots and bananas. Saturday was the first time she volunteered.

“This feels really good,” Mentz said. “I want to keep volunteering as a hobby.”

General Motors and United Auto Workers Local 95 started the outreach program in the 1980s. In 2009 the school district took it over.

Jeff Winchell, a volunteer and fifth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, worked for Lear Corp. for 17 years when GM closed in 2008.

This is Winchell's fourth year volunteering at Bags of Hope. He helps pack and deliver the food to families.

“I'm a lifelong Janesville resident and I want to help those in need,” Winchell said.  “I just like to see the families' reactions. They are so appreciative.” 

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