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Centre County YMCA feeding children during school closure

PHOTO PROVIDED Volunteers prepared hundreds of free lunches for children in Centre County on Wednesday. The program will continue for as long as schools are closed, according to Moshannon Valley YMCA Director Mel Curtis.

BELLEFONTE — The YMCA of Centre County is stepping up to the plate — and the table — so to speak.

At this week’s Centre County Commissioners’ meeting, Mel Curtis, anti-hunger program and Moshannon Valley YMCA branch director, talked about the YMCA’s plan to feed children in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

“One of the things we do is feed these children. We are now geared up that we will be out every day of the week feeding kids while they are out of school,” Curtis told the commissioners during the public comment portion of the meeting.

While schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic, the YMCA will be offering free lunches at locations around the county to ensure students don’t miss out on a meal they’d otherwise get during the school day.

Starting yesterday, bags with free lunches and evening snacks are being distributed from noon to 1 p.m. Distribution sites include the Bellefonte, State College and Moshannon Valley YMCAs. According to Curtis, additional sites will be added upon approval.

PHOTO PROVIDED The Centre County YMCA will provide lunches, free of charge to children in Centre County, during the COVID-19 crisis. The pickup of lunches will take place Monday through Friday from noon to 1 p.m.

Those who want a free lunch merely have to stop by one of the YMCAs. A lunch will be given to each child in the car.

YMCA of Centre County works with seven school districts — Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte, Penns Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola and State College in Centre County. In Clearfield County, the YMCA serves Moshannon Valley and West Branch school districts.

According to Curtis, the YMCA’s biggest needs right now are transportation, volunteers and financial support.

“We have a task force put together which has grown phenomenally. We have volunteers coming in from all over the county to serve kids every day,” Curtis noted. “Because we can’t do any type of congregant feeding, we are all doing stop-and-go locations. We will bag food, take it to these sites … the ideal scenario is that it will be drive thru.”

Curtis spearheads YMCA’s backpack weekend food and summer lunch program, which feeds countless children throughout the county, so he is no stranger to this.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Mel Curtis, anti-hunger program and Moshannon Valley YMCA branch director, spoke to the Centre County Commissioners on Tuesday.

As usual, he said, the residents of Centre County have stepped up.

“As a whole, the citizens of Centre County have been phenomenal. I can’t express how everyone has really opened up to help out in any way shape or form,” he said.

According to Curtis, the school districts have also offered to help, providing excess milk, meat and cheese that would go bad if unused.

“At a point that stuff is not going to be able to be used,” Curtis said. “There’s a lot of time we’re going to need items and we’re going to need to pick them up immediately, so gift cards, cash, check (would help).”

Donations can be made online at ymcaofcentrecounty.org/support/donate, by mail to YMCA of Centre County Development Office, 677 W Whitehall Road, State College, PA 16801, or in-person at branch locations from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Doors will be locked but someone will be at the front desk to let donors in.

In Bellefonte, those wishing to help with distribution of bags should contact branch director Shawn Thompson at sthompson@ymcaocc.org or 814-355-5551.

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