Pay It Forward: Volunteers' mission to feed Montgomery Co. kids

- A dedicated group of Maryland volunteers have set out on a very important mission: to feed Montgomery County children who don't have enough to eat. Our friends at Easterns Automotive Group stepped up to help them keep making a difference.

For many kids, Fridays signal fun—but for some, they mean a weekend without food. 

There are currently 63,800 food insecure residents living in Montgomery County, and just over half of them are school-aged children. 

Kathleen Sierra and her family moved to Montgomery County nearly two years ago. She says since then, her family has struggled to make ends meet. 

Sierra and her family of four have seen their expenses triple since they left Prince George’s County. With three times the expenses and only $63 each month from Social Services to help buy groceries, the Sierras find themselves constantly behind the eight ball. 

The Sierras are one of many families at Highland Elementary who receive free or reduced lunch, but when they walk out of the school doors, a lot of children go to homes where there just isn't enough food to go around. 
Volunteers working in a local program started by county resident Jeremy Lichtenstein are looking to change all that. The program is called Kids in Need Distributors (KIND).

Lichtenstein started KIND after hearing stories of kids going an entire weekend and only eating a bag of chips, or sometimes nothing at all. He thought that was intolerable—and his volunteers agreed. 

“We were shocked,” said Steve Schultz, a volunteer who has known Lichtenstein for years. “He had no idea when he first found it out that there were so many kids that needed the food.”

Every six weeks, an army of volunteers picks up food from the Wheaton Costco and delivers it to 25 different schools.

“We are fortunate enough and blessed that we could be able to help out,” said Vic Manlapaz, another volunteer. 

“It’s all hands on deck when it comes to Montgomery County,” said Kayla Belcher. 

The food is bagged up and slipped into students’ backpacks on Friday afternoons.

Kelitah Armstrong is the Community School Coordinator for the program. She says the food deliveries from KIND make a big impact. 

“You can't learn when you're hungry,” Armstrong pointed out. “Once a month, they come in and deliver food. We pack it in bags, and then we send it home and then boom-- we've got better test scores.”
They also have a stronger community, and it started with just one person inspiring others.    

“Mother Theresa said if you can't feed 100, just feed one,” said Majaida Zoine. 

That one turned into 250,000 meals for 1,700 kids last year, and it keeps growing.

While they can use more volunteers from time to time, most of all, Lichtenstein says the group needs money to buy food-- and that's where our friends from Easterns Automotive Group stepped in. Easterns' Joel Bassom joined us on Good Day DC to feed the KIND volunteers, and give them gas cards to help with the cost of their travel. Easterns also donated $1,000 to help KIND keep doing what they're doing, and they even brought them some very cool t-shirts to help represent their mission!

For more information on how to help Kids In Need Distributors (KIND), click here. 

If you know someone who should be featured on Pay It Forward, you can nominate them here. In your email, be sure to include who they are and why they deserve to be recognized.

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