KidsPak to hold first spaghetti dinner fundraiser, celebrates 10 years of service

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Nearly 10 years ago the Loveland Rotary KidsPak provided weekend food bags for 34 students at three schools — and now the nonprofit serves 39 schools with the 40th school soon to join.

The result is more and more bags to fill with enough food for five days and the need for additional fundraisers. The nonprofit will host the first Fall Family FUNraiser Spaghetti Dinner on Nov. 15 at Embassy Suites Loveland to raise additional funds but also to bring attention to the nonprofit and its years of service.

Courtesy photo – Volunteers with the Loveland Rotary KidsPak pack 438 weekend food bags Oct. 10 to distribute to students at 39 schools in Thompson School District.

“It’s a family event because we would like as many community members as possible to learn about the program and to spend a nice evening together,” said Maia Mattise-Lorenzen, communications director for KidsPak.

The dinner will feature a meal, music, and a 20-minute program about KidsPak, including statistics and information about hunger in the community and how it affects students. There also will be highlights from the film, “A Place at the Table,” produced by “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio and Lori Silverbush.

“KidsPak over the past 10 years has been feeding the future of our students in Thompson School District (TSD), and we see that this need has continued to grow,” Mattise-Lorenzen said.

KidsPak had its start when Jeff Douglas, a member of the Loveland Rotary Club, saw a national story about the rapid growth of weekend backpack hunger-relief programs for school children. Douglas contacted both TSD and the Rotary Club about bringing a program to Loveland and Berthoud schools — in April and May 2009 three elementary schools wanted to participate.

KidsPak initially provided supplemental food in backpacks, but after a year realized plastic grocery bags would be more efficient to send the food home to children on the district’s free-and-reduced lunch program. This year 39.1 percent or 6,300 of the district’s students are in the program, but they do not all receive the food packs. Students are referred to KidsPak by their teachers, counselors and health aides, who have received training in observing the 17 signs of hunger in children.

“When you go to Berthoud and Loveland you don’t see it. We’ve got to find them and feed them,” said Corinne Carrigan, volunteer coordinator of KidsPak.

By 2013 KidsPak provided 9,100 food bags for the school year, more than doubling to 19,700 in 2018. The total number of food bags for the six years was 94,000, and the projection for the 2018-2019 school year is 20,700 bags.

Initially the bags were assembled in a small room in the former House of Neighborly Service building in downtown Loveland, but by 2011 the nonprofit outgrew the space when it was sending out 100 bags a week. Volunteer numbers also increased from 15 to nearly 130 today.

“It got to the point where you couldn’t walk around the table. We couldn’t move,” Corinne said.

Now 600 bags a week go out from KidsPak’s second and current location at the Food Bank for Larimer County’s Loveland Food Share pantry. The food is packed every Wednesday by the KidsPak volunteers and members of the community.

“The most positive thing is, every month more community volunteers and Loveland businesses come to KidsPak to help,” said Tom Carrigan, chairman of KidsPak and Corinne’s husband.

The nonprofit started providing the bags at elementary schools, later adding middle and then high schools, plus early childhood centers, as program funding increased from grants, fundraisers and food drives. This year the nonprofit is expanding outside the school district to add a private school, St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Loveland, which will represent the 40th school in the program.

All of the schools in Berthoud are part of the program, including Berthoud and Ivy Stockwell elementary schools, Turner Middle School and Berthoud High School, as well as the Berthoud Early Childhood Center. Sixty bags are distributed each week to Berthoud students.

“If you don’t feed a child on the weekends, their brain will not accept information until Wednesday,” Corinne said. “That puts children two days behind every week.”

Tickets for the spaghetti dinner range from $15 for a single to $100 for a group of 10, and the limit is 600. They will be on sale through Nov. 11 and can be purchased at https://www.lovelandrotarykidspak.org/family-funraiser-spaghetti-dinner. Doors for the event will open at 5 p.m. with dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed by the program at 6:45 p.m.

For questions, contact Corinne Carrigan 510-750-5963 or Maia Mattise-Lorenzen at 970-744-0037.

“It’s a family-friendly dinner. What’s more family friendly than spaghetti?” Corinne said.

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