When the COVID-19 virus hit our area, many local residents were at a loss for what to do, how to use this time, and if there was a way to help others. One teenager from Terrace Park recognized a need and jumped right in.
Working with Inter Parish Ministry (IPM), a non-profit food and clothing pantry in Newtown and Amelia, Catsy Steele realized that there were students in our area going without food. Many schools are offering breakfast and lunch for these students, but what about healthy snacks or something to eat through the weekend? Catsy and her friends noticed this need and created a game plan.
IPM received many donations for making Power Packs after a Facebook post went viral. Power Packs are gallonsized bags filled with daily breakfast, lunch and snacks for children who typically receive their meals at school. Items that make up Power Packs include microwavable ravioli, mac and cheese cups, canned chicken/tuna kits, oatmeal, fruit cups, applesauce, pretzels, granola bars, and individual cereals. Throughout the school year, IPM provides 30 schools with weekend Power Packs and was aware that during this time, schools would see an increased need.
As the donations poured in, Molly Steele (Catsy’s mom) contacted Leslie Willett, Food Pantry Specialist at the Newtown location, to see how her family could help IPM. Through this conversation they developed a plan for Molly and her family to pick up donations from IPM and assemble Power Packs at the Steele home. They also created an Amazon Wish List enabling others who wanted to help to order online and ship items directly to the Steele family. Using gloves and a safe, social distance of over 6 feet, the Steeles, along with Catsy’s friends, worked on Power Packs.
“I wanted to help because it makes me really sad to know there are kids in Cincinnati and maybe even kids I know who are not going to have enough to eat during this time when schools are closed and parents may be losing jobs. I just can’t imagine my friends or family members not having enough to eat,” Catsy stated.
IPM has requests for about 600 Power Packs each week from schools in our area. Since they are only running with staff and no volunteers, Catsy making Power Packs has contributed to IPM’s broadening impact in the community. Within the first week of school closures, these Power Packing Elves assembled over 1,000 Power Packs which were quickly distributed to children in the local area through IPM’s collaborative work with schools and other agencies, and 550 additional packs went out the following week.
A special touch that Catsy and friends add to each Power Pack is an encouraging note. “On the notes we write things such as ‘Have a good day,’ ‘Smile,’ ‘Stay Strong’ or ‘Dream Big.’ Our hope was that when the kids would get these packs they wouldn’t feel sad but instead have a smile on their faces and know that someone is thinking of them.”
If there is a bright light in this health crisis, it is teenagers like Catsy sharing hope. When asked what she has learned through this experience, Catsy was quick to express, “I have learned that even in tough times you can rise above your own tough times and do something nice for others. This brings me joy hoping that these packs might bring another kid some joy in a tough time.”
Initially, Catsy and her team of Power Packing Elves were able to work together since the guidelines were to congregate with no more than 10 people. With the current isolation order, Catsy and her family are assembling Power Packs on their own. They will be making Power Packs as long as they have supplies, and donations can be made to help by visiting IPM’s website at interparish.org.