The Pocono Mountains United Way reports that 53 percent of Monroe County school-aged children receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year.
One can imagine the need, then, during the summer months, when students do not have access to a school cafeteria.
The agency aims to bridge the so-called meal gap for these children by offering a summer lunch program, free at various locations in the region. This year, United Way officials worked to identify additional sites and create partnerships to improve the program and reach more children who may be in need.
Among the partners is Barry Isett & Associates, Inc., a multi-discipline engineering firm that serves eastern and central Pennsylvania and has an office in Stroudsburg. Isett associates have been spending their Fridays this summer helping the United Way feed children in Monroe County.
Service is one of the four values that Isett associates strive to uphold, according to Gregg Pavlick, Vice President for Isett’s Northeast Pennsylvania Region. The company affords employees time during work hours to volunteer on projects that an Isett committee identifies as aligning with the company culture.
“Our associates take pride in giving to the communities where we live and work,” Pavlick said. “They are encouraged to look for opportunities to serve, and the company is not only happy but committed to giving them the chance to make a difference.”
The United Way sought volunteers to pick up lunches at the Northampton Community College Monroe Campus in Tannersville, where Chef Gayle Daniels of Sodexo and her team prepare and pack food for the children.
Isett associates are among those who stepped up to help deliver from the campus to the YMCA in Stroudsburg, one of several drop-off locations.
Sometimes, Isett associates stay at the YMCA to help set up, serve lunch or clean up. Other times, the volunteers simply return the containers to the campus.
John DeCusatis, an Isett associate who works out of the company’s Stroudsburg office, assisted at the YMCA during his scheduled service time on a recent Friday.
“I helped set up the lunch area and served the campers chocolate milk for lunch,” he said. “It was so much fun.”
Isett made arrangements to have a company van switched to its Stroudsburg office for the summer months so it could be used for the deliveries.
The move came after Isett associate Chuck Niclaus filled his full-size Toyota Camry with the food boxes on a particularly busy Friday. Niclaus made two trips to make sure lunch ran on time, but he was more than happy to accommodate.
“Overall, it was a good experience and everyone seemed quite appreciative,” he said. “The room was filled with smiling children eating when I made the second delivery.”