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OMYF Community Spotlight: HOPE Helps, Inc.

By Josh Cohen
July 20, 2011

ORLANDO -- Many children spend their afternoons hungry and fatigued without food on their plate. However, with the help of a blossoming program in Seminole County, fewer of these economically disadvantaged kids are heading into the evening without the necessary fuel to keep them motivated and energetic during school breaks.

While economically disadvantaged children are eligible for the federal Free/Reduced School Lunch Program during the school year, it’s an organization called HOPE Helps, Inc. that allows these boys and girls to have nutritious lunches when away from the classroom.

The Kids of HOPE Lunch program provides boxed meals, which include canned pasta, peanut butter, jam, bread, fruit cups, milk and other child-friendly foods and drinks. They are handed out to hundreds of children of all ages who are in need of them on weekdays when school is not in session.

“I wish we didn’t have such a need, but it’s just the sad truth that so many children are in need of this assistance,” said Krissy Todd, founder and CEO of HOPE Helps, Inc. “With a great community effort, we have seen success and people really support us.”

A huge help in the progress of this program, in its third year of existence, was the $30,000 grant the Orlando Magic Youth Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund (OMYF-MFF), provided HOPE Helps, Inc.

HOPE Helps, Inc. is one of 19 Central Florida organizations that was presented a grant by the OMYF-MFF as a part of the Magic’s community outreach initiative. Over the last 21 years, the OMYF has distributed more than $16 million to local non-profit community organizations. The OMYF raises community dollars annually through donations, auctions and events such as the Black Tie and Tennies Gala and the OMYF Golf Tournament with matching funds at $0.50 on the dollar provided by the McCormick Foundation.

“We would not be able to have the kind of success we have had if it wasn’t for this grant,” Todd said.

“Central Florida is very fortunate to have a number of organizations that provide assistance to families in times of need, and Hope Helps, Inc. does just that through its Kids of Hope Lunch program,” said Orlando Magic President Alex Martins. “Every child should have the opportunity for a healthy and successful future and proper nutrition is part of ensuring that success. The OMYF is proud to provide Hope Helps, Inc. assistance in fulfilling that basic need.”

More and more families are utilizing Kids of Hope to help aid the growing hunger problem that plagues children. Currently, there are 550 kids enrolled in the program – which equals to 2,700 lunches that Todd and her coordinators and volunteers prepare a week.

Earlier this year, the CBS show 60 Minutes did a feature on childhood hunger in Seminole County and highlighted Kids of HOPE as a fantastic resource. According to that segment, more than 1,000 students in Seminole County are homeless.

But with this kind of national spotlight on the problem and foundations like Kids of HOPE accessible to those in need, many families are able to deal with the hunger issue and focus on a brighter future for their children.

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