On October 9, Marde McConnell introduced Jean Knowles, Stewart School Elementary Guidance Counselor, to the members of the Washington branch of American Association of University Women. Knowles spoke to the group about the Operation Backpack Program at Stewart Elementary, which began in 2008. Stewart was one of only 8 schools in southeast Iowa to initiate this program which in 2017 included 77 schools in seven counties. Stewart now serves 50 students and 39 families. In 2012 Lincoln initiated the program.
All food is provided by the Hiawatha HACAP food reservoir which delivers the food to Washington where it is packed locally. As HACAP can purchase the food in large quantities and receives significant donations, the weekly cost per backpack is $5.50. Individual plastic bags are put into the personal backpacks of each participating child on Thursday afternoon. The food is all prepackaged and is “kid-friendly.”
The students are identified by teachers and staff and must be students who are currently receiving free or reduced lunches. At this time half of the all the students at Stewart Elementary receive free or reduced lunches.
According to Knowles, the expenses for the Backpack Program are primarily taken care of because “this community is so giving.” Service clubs, churches, and other organizations and individuals help to make it possible that these children have food over the weekend.
Knowles ended her program by sharing some exciting, Washington Community School District news. The schools have started a mental health coalition whose goal is to provide individual services for students in need at each of the public schools in Washington, as well as services in a group setting for students at the WRAP Center, the WCSD alternative program. One-half day each week is being spent at each school with about 5 students receiving services in each building. This program is primarily funded through a grant and mental health therapists are being provided by the local Grace C. Mae Advocate Center. Knowles is very hopeful and pleased with this newly initiated and very necessary program to help students and families in our school district.
Following the program President Millie Youngquist called the short, October 9th business meeting to order. She thanked Karen Murphy for hosting the group and Kitch Shatzer and Marde McConnell for being co-hostesses. The September minutes were read and approved and a thank you note to the group was read.
Patty Roe shared her Treasurer’s report and noted two new members. She shared the scholarship tuition for our 2017 scholarship recipient had been paid.
Kitch Shatzer reported on the greenery and poinsettia fund raising project. She reminded members that the deadline for the greenery is October 22nd and the poinsettia deadline is November 17th.
Marde McConnell reported on the November 13th AAUW sponsored NHS Reception for students and their parents. Marde was pleased to share that the Education Award recipient has been selected and contacted, as has the chosen speaker. Many other details were discussed. Members in attendance indicated their availability to help with this special event.
President Youngquist reported that the Little Free Library, coordinated by Virginia Bordwell, is running smoothly.
There was no report on a fund raising bus tour at this time. President Youngquist adjourned the meeting.
Anyone wanting more information about the American Association of University Women is encouraged to contact Jenisa Harris 319-400-1157, Marde McConnell, 319-653-3884 or Millie Youngquist, 319-653-4673