Every weekday morning between 6 and 7, a team of Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 employees arrives at Boothbay Region Elementary School. Led by Assistant Director of School Nutrition Laurie Dickinson, they are there to bag lunches for the region’s kids.
“The gym has become our bagging center,” said Dickinson. “We start with 300 bags, each with a straw and a napkin.”
The bags, which will hold that day’s lunch and the next day’s breakfast, are available free to any child 18 or under, whether they would normally be in school or not. “Even if the child is pre-school, or home-schooled, or in a daycare, they can still have a lunch,” said Dickinson.
“We all work on it together. Some of the team members have been allocated specific pick-up locations and so they pack the bags for those places. Laurie Brewer takes care of Southport Central, Laura Hall is at Edgecomb Eddy, Heidi Stevens goes to the Boothbay town office, and Juanita McFetridge hands out at the YMCA.” Nancy Cressey and Kathy Page help with the lunch bags, then stay at BRES to help parents coming to pick up lessons and other items, said Director of School Nutrition Darlene French.
Said Dickinson: “Once the lunches for pickup are sorted, we move on to the bags that will be delivered. The drivers – Lyndon Roberts, Martha Snow, Justin Curtis and David Morton – also help packing bags and loading them into vehicles to go out. It really is a team effort.”
By 11 a.m., the bags are packed, sorted and ready to go. “We all leave for our designated locations or to start deliveries. We’re at the pick-up locations from 11:30 to 12:30 every day,” said Dickinson. “For the deliveries we’re out for about an hour and a half. We wear our masks, we wear our gloves, we drop the bag, knock on the door, and leave.”
On average, 120 lunch and breakfast bags are being delivered to homes around the peninsula every weekday. “There’s no registration if you’re picking up a lunch,” Dickinson said. “But anyone can ask for delivery, you just have to register at the AOS 98 website. I love delivering. The kids are so excited, wondering what’s in today’s bag … it warms my heart that they’re so happy. Some of them, their parents are working and they may not see anyone else all day. Even if they’re only seeing us through the window, it makes our job so rewarding to know that we’re making their day. Everyone on the team is potentially putting themselves at risk but our job is to make sure our kids are fed.”
Lunches can be collected at Southport Central School, Edgecomb Eddy School, the Boothbay town office, and Boothbay Region YMCA Monday through Friday 11:30 to 12:30. On Saturday and Sunday, meals are still available, but only at the YMCA. And, said Dickinson, “We’ll be continuing right through the April vacation week because we feel there’s a need.”
To register for lunch delivery or to make a financial donation, visit aos98schools.org. “We get some financial reimbursement from the state,” said Dickinson. “But we’re losing money on the program. If people are able to donate it’s a big help.” If anyone has questions or problems registering, call Dickinson at 633-7131.
“My staff are heroes,” said French. “They are amazing!”
“It’s a big operation,” Dickinson said. “But it’s a great program and we are all really proud to be a part of it.”