DALLAS TWP. — Dinner for Kids program will get an extra serving of help with the appointment of Mary O’Leary, a member of Misericordia University’s Department of Social Work to the AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service to America, according to a news release from the university’s media relations department.
Dinner for Kids is a program that provides nutritious meals to children of financially stressed families in the Wyoming Valley and Back Mountain regions. O’Leary will serve one year as an administrative assistant at the university and seek fundraising and grant opportunities to fuel the Dinner for Kids program.
“I definitely developed a love for service and plan to focus my career around the social justice issues of intersectional feminism, anti-racism, and anti-poverty,” O’Leary said. “I see having access to food as a fundamental human right. You cannot do much without food. As a VISTA volunteer, I am thrilled to be working to help eradicate food insecurity in the region.”
O’Leary, of Philadelphia, began her VISTA service in the Department of Social Work at Misericordia July 23. She will work with the Dinners for Kids Board of Directors and under the direction of Susan McDonald, chairperson of the Department of Social Work, and Carly Ellman, assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Social Work, both at Misericordia.
“O’Leary will be working to expand the Dinners for Kids Program and help make it sustainable for years to come,” Ellman said in the news release. “She will be recruiting volunteers and putting together a volunteer training manual. She will help write grants and fundraise to pay for the meals. Mary also will be involved in a research project to see how the program benefits the children and their families.”
O’Leary earned dual bachelor’s degrees in psychology and gender studies at West Chester University in May. She was involved in her campus’ service-learning office as an undergraduate and became acquainted with the VISTA program through a VISTA volunteer assigned at her alma mater.
David and Edna Tevet, former owners of Ollie’s: An American Restaurant in Edwardsville, were inspired to start the Dinner for Kids program in 2011 after learning over 10,000 Luzerne County children live with food insecurity.
The Tevets started the program by delivering six free meals a week to 40 Wyoming Valley West School District students. In 2016, Misericordia University’s social work students and the Campus Ministry teamed up with Metz Culinary Management to bring the program to the Dallas School District. Metz Culinary Management prepares the meals on campus.
The Tevets’ efforts have expanded to include students in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District. The Dinners for Kids Program provides six meals every week for approximately 143 children, delivering more than 43,000 meals annually. The youngsters are most often referred to the program by social workers and educators.
Among O’Leary’s first duties will be to assist with the organization’s fundraising event, the second annual Ruth’s Chris Golf Classic, Monday, Oct. 8 at the Huntsville Golf Club, Shavertown. Sponsored by Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Wilkes-Barre, and its franchisee, Metz Culinary Management, the tournament will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a shotgun start and conclude with a celebratory reception and awards presentation at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Mohegan Sun Pocono, Plains Twp. The proceeds will benefit the Dinners for Kids program.
The program is in need of volunteers throughout the year to help package food and make deliveries. For more information, contact O’Leary at firstname.lastname@example.org.