Seniors at Gaithersburg’s Asbury Methodist Village are helping elementary school kids who are most in need.
Manna Food Center started the ‘Smart Sacks’ program to get meals to needy kids for the weekend, when they can’t depend on free and reduced-price meals.
Now, a year-old branch of the program at Asbury has doubled its output to about 50 ‘sacks’ a week, said Elaine Kielman, Asbury director of Volunteer Services and Therapeutic Programs.
About a dozen Asbury residents pack the bags with kid-friendly, non-perishable food like macaroni and cheese and peanut butter crackers.
The program is based in Asbury’s memory support unit. Many of the residents who participate have memory difficulties, but it takes “just minutes” for them to pack a bag, Kielman said.
“They see the tables set up with all the groceries and they understand what’s going on,” she said.
Kielman said the seniors enjoy the opportunity to help other people, especially when they usually are the ones being helped.
“It allows them to continue to volunteer,” she said.
A few Asbury staff members assist the seniors, whose ages range from 80 to 95, Asbury Activities Assistant Frenette Young said. The weekly packing has become a high part of the week.
“They look forward to it every Wednesday,” she said.
Young helps the seniors pack, then takes the bags to Gaithersburg Elementary School. She said they often have volunteers from local high schools help out.
“The young people coming in have so much respect for the elderly,” she said. “You never know when you might be in that situation.”
Manna’s Smart Sacks Director Alexandria Scott said the program serves 55 schools and 2,000 students. She said the seniors at Asbury have been eager partners in the program.
“They just loved participating in ‘Smart Sacks,’” she said.