Food for Thought – Towne Post Network
Carmel Youth Aid Program feeds local families through Carmel Summer Meals and Pack the Cruiser event
Screenwriter / Megan Arszman
Sometimes that‘is the little guy who needs the most help, and that‘s why the Carmel Youth Assistance Program (CYAP) worked to strengthen Carmel‘s youth and families through community engagement. The primarily referral-based program works in conjunction with Carmel Clay Schools, the City of Carmel, and the Hamilton County Superior Court.
The program was originally launched in 2009 in Westfield to serve young people in Hamilton County. There is now a program serving each municipality, and Carmel‘The program started in 2015. The program was originally created to help keep children out of the juvenile justice system through early intervention.
“We‘we’re not a direct service provider,” says Melissa Yarger, Early Intervention Advocate for ACAP. “We meet the families where they are and ask them ‘What do you need?‘ and ‘How can we get there?‘ We try to fill in the gaps wherever we can so that our children are happy and healthy.
In 2017, Carmel Summer Meals was launched to help families who struggle during the summer months to feed their children. “For most families, these children were getting free breakfast and lunch through school, so for them to then struggle to find meals for two months, we knew we had to help. says Yarger.
This year, more than 400 Carmel children will be served. Families who qualify for the Federal Reduced Meal Program through the school system are eligible for the Carmel Summer Meal Program. The deadline to register was May 1st.
“We provide ingredients for families, especially children, to create their own breakfast and lunch during the summer months,” says Yarger.
Meal ingredients such as cereal, bread, cold cuts, yogurt and hot dogs are packed once a week for families to pick up. Hot meals are not included, due to the need for children to be able to prepare meals themselves as well as for the safety of minors.
A sizable food drive for the Carmel Summer Meals program is the “Pack the Cruiser” in partnership with Carmel Police and Kroger. The food drive is a county-wide event, with each Kroger participating with their municipality‘s youth assistance program and police service. Kroger stores located at 1217 South Rangeline Road and 10679 North Michigan Road hosted the event on June 2.
Kroger shoppers are encouraged to donate specific items while they shop, and volunteers are there at exits to accept and wrap donations.
“This‘This is our biggest food drive for the program,” Yarger says. “In fact, we quickly discovered that police cruisers don’t hold up enough. We use box trucks to load everything.
The Merciful HELP Center, located at 1045 West 146th Street, is an ongoing partner of the Carmel Summer Meals program. St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church at 10655 Haverstick Road is home to the warehousing and packing program. Donations are accepted throughout the year. Specific foods that are always needed include boxed cereal, boxed granola bars, and Teddy Grahams. Financial donations can be made online.
Another important goal for CYAP is mentorship. “We’re still connecting the kids to different things like summer camps, mental health support, and financial aid,” Yarger says. “We‘I coordinate resources for them, but mentoring is my favorite part of what we do. »
The ACAP mentorship program pairs an adult with a youngster as young as 5 years old, to spend at least one hour a week together for a year. Twinning consists of creating a bond and relieving a child‘mood and involves fun activities such as playing in the park, cooking a meal together, walking the Monon Trail, or any other activity that appeals to young people.
The mentors are all volunteers who go through background checks and training before being matched with young people (who are also pre-screened). Children from all walks of life are part of the mentoring program. “They just need another positive adult in their life,” Yarger says.
The common age range for the mentorship program is from sixth grade to first year of high school. Children are referred to the program by their school‘s social worker. Adults interested in becoming mentors can register on the ACAP website.
To learn more, visit youthassistance.org/carmel.