It Takes a Village

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Killarney Elementary in Orange County is just one example of how the spirit of community and partnership can have a positive impact on a child’s success.

When the Title I school was deemed a ‘D’ by the State of Florida’s grading system, the Rotary Club of Winter Park led the charge for community support of the school’s pantry. The club had hosted holiday food drives and meals for Killarney families in the past and knew that if they could provide these students with regular access to food, the kids would have a better chance at success.

The school became a Second Harvest feeding partner and the Rotary Club began accessing kid-friendly food items for the pantry. Through the support of a Winter Park Health Foundation grant, the school also received new shelving, a pallet jack and carts to help improve its efficiency and food storage capacity.

Then, the Rotarians went to work recruiting local businesses, faith-based partners, students and community volunteers from Zurich Insurance, Massey Services, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Calvary Assembly, St. Paul’s Presbyterian of College Park, Park Maitland School, Killarney Baptist Church, Ultimate I-4, Rollins College and Winter Park High School. 

“Everything we do is for these children,” says Ann Clement, a Rotarian who is committed to the Killarney pantry. Each week Ann and a team of volunteers meet to assemble 90-100 weekend food packs for students identified by either their teachers or school coordinators. 

“The teachers know who comes in on Monday with headaches and stomachaches,” explains Ann. “The whole school eats free breakfast and lunch during the week, so we try our best to fill the weekend gap.”

Each pack contains simple, non-perishable meals and snacks that are kid-friendly, like soup, meats, mac and cheese, cereal, granola bars and fruit. The team is sensitive to kids with allergies and makes special packs for those who are gluten-free, or allergic to eggs or nuts. The packs are delivered to classrooms mid-week and teachers are able to send them home on Fridays.

The pantry also prepares larger family boxes for holiday breaks when school is not in session.

“We don’t often hear from the families, but when we do, it is always ‘thank you, so, so much,’” adds Ann.

Today, thanks to many community partners, Killarney Elementary is an A-rated school.

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