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Community collaborates to create summer food and recreation program

By Staff | Apr 7, 2015

PHOTO BY BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Pastor Virginia Bailey from First United Methodist Church and Pastor Viking Dietrich from St. John Lutheran Church discuss points of interest to a well attended audience on March 24 for a summer food and recreation program for the children of the Montgomery community.

MONTGOMERY – This week the community of Montgomery will be deciding on a summer recreation program for their children when school is out for the season. The program will encompass a craft or activity, food with preparation from local residents, some entertainment and a whole lot of fun for the kids.

Beginning in early February, Viking Dietrich, Pastor at St. John Lutheran Church, took the lead and organized a town meeting with borough members, the school superintendent, students, the mayor, other clergy, business leaders, and the library staff who all took part in an organizational meeting held on March 24th.

It was decided that the program would last for six weeks, three days per week. Exact dates will be decided on during the second organizational meeting on Tuesday evening, April 7. The summer recreational and food program began last year, but as of yet, has no true ownership according to Pastor Viking. Therefore, a plan is being set for the future and community involvement has been well supported. “Our first meeting had a lot of energy and a lot of great ideas,” he said.

Basic funding will be acquired through the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education, but additional funding and sponsors will be required to allow the program to be more sustainable. “That’s the impetus,” said the Pastor who suggested incorporating the program with food and recreation as a motivation to address the needs and health of the Montgomery community. “Let’s create a safe plan for now and then,” he said. “This will add value to our community.”

It was agreed by all who attended that a partnership will help broaden community spirit, set attainable goals and create a vision. Mayor Andrew Onufrak said it should be more than just feeding the children. “Let’s give them more to offer as the community as a whole. We can add to this,” he replied.

Pastor Virginia Bailey from First United Methodist Church volunteered to provide a kitchen towards the project, and Luann Potter from Muncy and a substitute teacher offered to help with a community garden. “I can work on teaching children on growing their own food,” she said. Buying from local farmers could give the area an economic boost, along with providing fresher and healthier foods.

Daphne Bowers, School Superintendent, expressed a big interest, as there is little to do for the students in the summertime. “There is a need to target children in grades 6 and 7, a vulnerable age as they become more independent,” she said.

Student, Nick Bower who helped with the program last year with two younger siblings, ages 9 and 6, said, “This is a good thing to grow in the town. I see them learning from it.” He said he would like to continue and volunteered to help supervise the meals and find some student helpers.

Another student who attended, Tiffany Manthey, offered to do some community outreach from her school and get some of her peers involved as well. “I can make a calendar, some posters and flyers for the community.” All age students can be involved somehow, if they want.

Business leader, Tina Tickle said she could possibly provide some music and group lessons from her downtown music studio, and she also really liked the idea of working with a community garden. “I would like to find a good location for this project and put in raised beds,” she added.

Librarian, Cynthia Bryan said that the public library can easily incorporate their summer reading program on Wednesdays, and Larry Stout added that perhaps the older students could help with some fun games for the younger ones.

Pastor Dietrich added that contributions and offerings will be needed for purchasing food and more volunteers to prepare it. Bowers added that 42 percent of students are on reduced lunches. An interest was given on buying food from local growers. Other suggestions made included some baseball games, reading, painting, music lessons, pet park and a cookout. “Let’s do this on the last day of school,” suggested Tiffany Manthey, “then we can kick off the program!”

More details will be announced after the second meeting according to Pastor Dietrich who released a general outline of goals and responsibilities for the partnership.

Any community residents who are interested in helping out with this project, may contact Pastor Viking Dietrich at 570-547-7063.

“We are looking at building the community through a community project to strengthen Montgomery, with a focus on youth.”