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August 8, 2020

7/29/2020 11:15:00 AM
Virus can't stop FLASH from serving 2000+ children
Dental hygeinist Kristy Young, seated, from Dr. Scott Terry DDS’ office and son Chase speak to FLASH director Ashley Follmer before passing out free dental hygiene bags. JCHS senior Kyla Franklin stacks a box of food in the background.—Staff Photo by Kylan Higgs.
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Dental hygeinist Kristy Young, seated, from Dr. Scott Terry DDS’ office and son Chase speak to FLASH director Ashley Follmer before passing out free dental hygiene bags. JCHS senior Kyla Franklin stacks a box of food in the background.—Staff Photo by Kylan Higgs.
Kylan Higgs
Reporter

A global pandemic did not stop Jennings County's Free Lunch All Summer, Hooray! better known as FLASH, a free lunch summer program which has been serving food to those in need for 10 years.

"This year's FLASH program was a success despite many obstacles," said Ashley Follmer, the Head Director of the FLASH food program. As of last week, Ashley said the program has served over 2,000 kids' meals alone, not including the meals that children receive from the weekly take-home food boxes. These boxes contain nearly 25 pounds of nonperishable foods, such as cereal, peanut butter, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, canned chicken and tuna, and more.

Ashley is a 2019 graduate of Jennings County High School and is currently majoring in Elementary Education with a work minor in Social Welfare Advocacy at Indiana University. This is her first year as director, taking over from Colleen Malone who had been the director of FLASH since it began in 2010.

"She has worked very hard for our community and providing this food every single summer is just a small part of the contribution she has made to our small town," Ashley said of Malone.

Ashley had volunteered with FLASH for a few years while she was in high school. In January, Colleen reached out to her to see if she would be interested in working with the program on a larger scale, to which Ashley gladly accepted.

"(Colleen and I) had a great talk of how this program benefits Jennings County and those in need and how it is a vital resource to our community, which led me to be very excited to take a bigger part in this program, recounted the new director.

Not only did Ashley and FLASH have to overcome the obstacle of it being her first year leading the effort, but they had to do so with the added variable of COVID-19.

With the early closing of schools, FLASH worked with the JC Youth Foundation to get a head start on this year's program by serving lunches and distributing food boxes a few weeks ahead of schedule by May 8. Every meal and food box was served through a drive-thru set up to allow for minimal contact.

On July 6, the program was able to welcome families back inside for a sit down meal in the CSL Clubhouse with a to-go option also still available.

"We follow all state mandates such as spacing tables six feet apart, requiring all volunteers to wear a mask, sanitizing each area regularly and more," Ashley said.

While the program ran much differently than in years past, FLASH was able to find ways to provide needed food to the community while still keeping everyone safe. Though numbers of individuals served were a bit lower than in years past, those at FLASH realize that Jennings is blessed with a wide range of resources that provided food through the summer.

One of these resources was the Baylor program that sent food directly to residents' doorsteps. This was a great program that helped decrease food insecurity in the county.

FLASH could not have run successfully this year if it wasn't for the amazing volunteers from North Vernon Kiwanis Club, St. Mary's Catholic Church, First United Methodist Church, Ascension St. Vincent, United Senior Solutions, and other organizations.

FLASH also works with Country Squire Lakes Association, Jennings County Youth Foundation, and Gleaner's along with the those making donations and providing volunteers.

FLASH serves free hot meals Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. at CSL Clubhouse. They also distribute family food boxes each Friday during this time, as well as on Tuesday evenings from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the FLASH office located at 945 Veterans Drive in North Vernon.

Their last day was scheduled for the last Friday in July, but due to the JC school start date being pushed back by a week, they will be serving one extra week until Friday, August 7 to accommodate those who rely on food from school and anyone else that could benefit from another week of food distribution.





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