DAVENPORT – If there’s one thing Michael Eckersley is hoping for this spring, it’s a really good round of golf.
But it’s not because he’s longing for time on the golf course himself. What Eckersley wants is for a lot of Central Florida residents, visitors and snowbirds alike to turn out at the Hunter’s Creek Golf Club on Thursday, May 3 to play as much golf as they like.
“We need people to pay golf and participate,” Eckersley said. “We have loads and loads of prizes. We have the longest drive and all that other stuff, and we just want people to join in – and bring their money.”
That golf tournament, which will have a shotgun start at 1 p.m., is actually a fund-raiser for the charitable organization that Eckersley belongs to, the Four Corners/Davenport Kiwanis Club, and the money that will be raised from the tournament, he added, is badly needed.
“We’re doing it for the Green Bag Project, and the work they do at Loughman Oak Elementary School,” Eckersley said. “One-hundred percent of the proceeds are going to that service.”
The Green Bag Project is a volunteer, non-profit effort that has existing collaborations between local school districts on one hand, and businesses and civic groups on the other. The central mission is to ensure that Central Florida’s school students get a good meal while they’re at school, and don’t go home hungry.
Green Bag adopts schools, including Loughman Oaks Elementary, and makes contributions that allow the administrators to keep stocking their food supply. The Four Corners/Davenport Kiwanis Club has been assisting Green Bag in its endeavors, by providing students with backpacks every Friday afternoon that are filled with food that they can take home with them to eat on the weekends.
As Eckersley noted, some of the students come from families where the parents are struggling to make ends meet, and the only meals their children get are at school.
“We’re very concerned about these kids,” Eckersley said. “Every Friday, about 100 backpacks go out with food in them for what we call ‘Weekend Kids,’ the ones who don’t get sufficient food at home.”
The program is not well advertised, he noted, because school administrators are nervous about what impact that would have on the students receiving this assistance.
“They don’t make a big deal of it because they don’t want to embarrass the kids whose parents don’t earn a lot,” Eckersley said.
On the other hand, he noted that it can get costly to provide those backpacks, while is why the local chapter of the Kiwanis Club has been holding fund-raisers like a recent fish fry, and now the upcoming golf tournament.
“It’s costing us $750 a month to provide the food packs, but we’re happy to do it,” Eckersely said. “We just had a fish fry and raised $800. That’s one month done, and that’s how we look at it. So we’ve done fund-raisers to supplement that.”
Green Bag Project is a program based at 1503 Legends Drive in ChampionsGate, which collects and distributes food to needy families. It started modestly two years ago, with volunteers dropping off green shopping bags in local neighborhoods, with notes attached asking people to put any spare food they could offer inside it. The bags were collected, and the food was given to local food pantries.
From that modest start, the Green Bag Project has grown considerably, helped by the fact that a rising number of business organizations have signed on to assist the program. There’s even a web site now, www.green-bag-project.org, and the non-profit opened four feeding locations on U.S. 192 last past summer, as special locations where kids could stop by to get a free lunch in the months while school was out of session.
There are estimated to be nearly 1,000 children living in cramped motel rooms along U.S. 192, from Four Corners to Kissimmee, because their parents can’t afford to come up with the money to get into an apartment or house. Green Bag has adopted many of the schools that these students get sent to.
Green Bag Project also launched a program asking area residents to feed a child every weekend for one month for $20. Every donation that Green Bag receives goes to pay for these backpacks of weekend food that are being distributed to more than 500 area children.
The Kiwanis golf tournament is aimed at assisting this program, noted Richard Osso, the president of the Four Corners/Davenport Kiwanis Club.
“This is for a very, very good cause,” Osso said, adding that it isn’t easy coming up with nearly $1,000 a month to help the Loughman Oaks students.
“We’re doing it – but I don’t know how we’re doing it,” he said. “Every time we think, ‘This is it, the last one,’ we turn the corner and get another donation, and we keep going.”
Hunter’s Creek Golf Club is at 14401 Sports Club Way in the Hunter’s Creek development in South Orlando. To learn more, call 407-240-4653 or 407-791-8447.
The Four Corners/Davenport Kiwanis Club meets every Wednesday except for the third Wednesday of each month, at the Providence Golf Club in Loughman. The meetings start at noon.
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