$68,337 raised to help feed children within Darke County


By Meladi Brewer


GREENVILLE — $68,337 was raised to help feed children within Darke County.

“God is so good, I am in awe of His goodness,” Kelly Fliehman said.

The Red & Yellow Black & White Gala, hosted at Romer’s Catering April 5th, helped raise funds for the Backpack Ministry. The backpack program successfully delivers food to seven Darke County schools every month to ensure the youth have access to easy to make meals on the weekends.

“The kids get breakfast, protein, snacks every last day of the week, so they will have it for the weekend,” Vicki Willcox, Backpack Program Coordinator, said. “The try to get things the kids will eat.”

A number of kids look forward to receiving their backpack of food each week. For many, this means the difference between being fearful of when their next meal will come, praying they will make it until Monday when they get food from the school, and comfortability.

“I go to “work” each day – I say work with quotation marks because I truly love my job,” Ashlee Fourman, Ansonia Principal said, “and I encounter hundreds of children. Some enter the building with a smile, and others do not.”

Some children enter the building angry, hurt, sad, and mad. Fourman said, “Some children enter the building and learning is the last thing on their mind.”

“Maybe they have witnessed mom and dad fighting the night before or they have overheard a conversation of divorce, maybe they have a parent who is ill, maybe they lost a parent, or maybe they have a parent that lost a job and struggles to make ends meet,” Fourman said.

She said you never know what “all these precious little minds” have gone through when they enter the building, and that is why somedays she wishes God had given her the ability to read minds.

“These little ones have big emotions, and they don’t always know how to express them,” Fourman said. “Sometimes the adults that they trust most: teacher, bus drive, teacher’s aid, or cafeteria workers get the brunt of those emotions that they don’t know how to express.”

Many times that emotion is expressed in anger. By being at the Gala, all the sponsors, donors, and participants were part of something bigger. They were making a difference in the lives of children in the county.

“Currently, the Backpack Program provides over 300 children in Darke County with a bag of food each week,” Fourman said. “To many of us sitting here in this room, this is something we can never fathom.”

Fourman said many of us have never been in the situation where we did not have enough food to feed ourselves or our families.

“Unfortunately this is the case for many of the families in our county,” Fourman said.

She spoke of a young female whom had an impact in her life. The young one would lie, steal, and sneak into other people lunches or steal off of others trays. After speaking with her, Fourman created a system where she would reward the female with a snack if she behaved that day.

“This little girl has been with our school district for five years. From the moment she enrolled it was evident that this little girl had experienced something in her life that caused her to believe that she may not eat another meal after the one she was currently eating,” Fourman said.

She said the girl would eat all of her lunch and sometimes would ask for more condiments like ranch or ketchup in order to get a little bit more before the lunch period ended even though she didn’t have any food left on her tray.

“She seemed to understand right from wrong and stealing isn’t ok, but her desire to want food would overcome her ability to make those right choices,” Fourman said.

The reward system they had established worked for the rest of the school year, but when school let our for the summer, Fourman was worried about what it would be like for her. Fourman prayed she would be fed during the summer and the little girl would come back to school making the same good choices she made when she left.

Once the summer was over, the female was enrolled in the backpack program, and she looked forward to taking home that bag of food each Friday.

“It was a typical Friday, the backpacks were in their classrooms, the girl came to school that day and was once again excited, but towards the end of the day, the girl’s teacher discovered a beef stick wrapper on the floor,” Fourman said.

The teacher noticed that the knot holding the girls bag secure had been undone. When asked if she had taken a beef stick, the female said no. The teacher talked to the girl after class, and she ultimately confessed to eating the beef stick.

“Did the teacher care that the girl ate the beef stick during class? No,” Fourman said. “But she was starting to slip back into her old habits of lying.”

The teacher explained to the girl that school is a safe space where she will be able to eat breakfast and lunch at every day. She explained that the teachers and staff care about her, what is best for her, and that she didn’t have to lie or steal. The teacher told her how proud she was of her and the progress she had made.

“You came here tonight to support a program that gives food to kids, and I appreciate that so much,” Fourman said. “But I want you to know that you are supporting something more.”

She said they are not only providing monetary support, but they are also part of life lessons by teaching morals like honesty and integrity.

“You may be helping a single parent get through until they can afford another round of groceries, or you are providing for a student who is being raised by a great grandparent. You would be surprised by how many of my students are being raised by great grandparents,” Fourman said.

She said to leave there knowing they are providing so much more than providing food. She thanked everyone for their support, donations, contributions, and time saying it means a lot more than anyone will know.

“The is a program of local volunteers,” Judge Travis Fliehman said. “No one is compensated, and it really comes down to the love of the kids. It is truly an unselfish commitment or time and resources.”

To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected]

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