By Raymond Mo
When Carmel Youth Assistance Program officials asked for support for its summer meals program, they were met with an overwhelming response from the Carmel community.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the program’s financial future looked bleak. Major fundraising events such as the Carmel Gala and Pack the Cruiser were canceled, leaving the program with fewer sponsors and food donations. In addition, Carmel Clay Schools donation drives evaporated as schools went completely online. With a record-high demand for meals, the program needed another way to provide for students and families in need of food support in the summer months.
“So, we did a huge social media push,” CYAP Early Intervention Advocate Melissa Yarger said. “On our Facebook page, we put out a really big ask, saying that we needed help. Carmel Clay Schools was also amazing and sent out a message to all the families who attend the district that said we needed their support. We had 500 kids to feed, and we weren’t going to let anyone not be fed for the summer.”
The result was a collective effort from the community to raise funds for the program. Thanks to community support, CYAP was able to provide 54,390 meals this summer, enough to feed every family that requested it.
“From school PTOs donating, neighborhood food drives and monetary donations, we have been so grateful for all the support we received,” Yarger said.
During the summer, volunteers ran three drive-thru pickup sites where students and families could receive their meals. This setup required extra efforts from volunteers to prepare food, and the pandemic necessitated additional cleaning measures.
“Our volunteers are the driving force of the program,” Yarger said. “They’re the ones every week getting the food ready, packing the bags and loading them up into the cars. I’m honestly not sure where we would be without them.”
Although the summer meals program has ended, CYAP supports students and families year-round. For those interested in providing assistance, visit youthassistance.org/carmel.