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United Way program serves thousands of meals in Whiteside County

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As kids file into the Coloma Homes kitchen on a steamy Thursday, Let's Feed Our Children is changing lives, one free lunch at a time.

"Some families might not have enough money to have food for lunch," said Alexander Helfers, 11.

That's where you'll find volunteers from Rock Falls High School.

"You're helping kids that don't have anything," said Jai Jai Hale, 18, back for her second summer with the program.

They're teaming up to tackle hunger. Hale is among those pitching in to prepare and serve meals.

"We're feeding people that are less fortunate than others," she said.

United Way of Whiteside County developed the program after Northwestern Steel and Wire Company closed more than a decade ago. It's still providing food for thought.

"I used to even come down when I was younger," said Kolesha Shepard, 20. "Ride bikes down and everything."

This program is already outpacing last year's numbers. That's when it served 30,000 lunches from seven sites and two mobile drop-offs.

For many kids, it's their best option for a meal during the summer.

"There are people in this community that do need help," said Nathan Fellows, in his fourth year of coordinating the program. "A lunch is a good start."

Youngsters get a nutritious meal, and volunteers get a rewarding experience. It's another example of a caring community that continues to come through.

"They've been doing a good job," said Nevaeh Cantu, 9. "I bet they're doing hard work."

"You come here and get a good lunch," Helfers concluded. "It's good."

The program depends on volunteer support and donations:

Let's Feed Our Children, P.O. Box 806, Sterling, Illinois, 61081, or contact United Way of Whiteside County at (815) 625-7973.

One lunch at a time, they're meeting the need this summer.