DALLAS TWP. — A “Dinners for Kids” celebration at Misericordia University on Wednesday raised money to feed area children while bringing supporters together for a good meal and great time.
“Dinners for Kids” is a nonprofit founded by Edna and David Tevet, former owners of Ollie’s Restaurant in Edwardsville. The group provides balanced meals to at-risk children six days a week.
David Tevet said the effort was organized seven years ago when the couple realized over 10,000 children in Luzerne County go to bed hungry.
“Can you picture that?” he asked. “A child not being able to sleep because they’re hungry.”
Bill Jones, executive director of the United Way of Wyoming Valley, was honored at the dinner. He said providing meals for children goes beyond simply filling their stomachs, it broadens their horizons and makes success more likely.
“A hungry child can’t learn. Providing basic needs improves the academic, social, physical and emotional outlook for children,” said Jones.
Lynn Evans Biga, executive director of Luzerne County Head Start and the night’s other honoree, also emphasized the value of reaching children as early as possible.
Biga said Head Start, a program for children from birth though age 5, ensures kids have a nutritious meal every day. It’s also focused on medical checkups and treatment, plus oral health screenings.
The organization refers children to the “Dinners for Kids” program.
Biga also emphasized the importance of supporting families.
“We’re two-generational,” she said. “We even help parents get their GED.”
Misericordia social work professor David Hage oversaw the efforts of the department’s junior class in making the event a reality.
Hage said it helps students put into practice four basic tenets of the school’s mission: mercy, service, justice and hospitality.
“Early on, we want our students to understand the importance of commitment to community,” he said.
Junior Deanna Warren volunteered at the event and also participated in a presentation to more than 150 attendees.
“As a social work student, it is important to be part of an event that helps so many children and families within the community,” said Warren.
There are about 160 children enrolled in the program, 130 in the Wyoming Valley West and Wilkes-Barre school districts served by Ollie’s Restaurant and 30 in the Dallas School District served by Metz at Misericordia. A total of 50,000 meals are served per year.
Susan McDonald, head of the university’s Social Work Department, has delivered food to youngsters and found the experience to be rewarding.
“The kids come outside when we get to their house,” she said. “They’re so excited. You know you’re making a difference. Really helping.”
McDonald said that although many residents believe that poverty does not exist in the Back Mountain, it does.
“You’re driving down Memorial Highway and you might not see it,” she said. “But then you go down a side road and there it is – kids in need.”