Inspire Dayton: This group provides meals, toys to at-risk kids - and wants to find more families to help

Pirate Packs volunteers deliver pick-up food and gifts for children behind the Payne Recreation Center in Moraine.
Pirate Packs volunteers deliver pick-up food and gifts for children behind the Payne Recreation Center in Moraine.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

A Dayton-area group is looking to boost the number of at-risk children it feeds via its packing and distribution efforts.

Pirate Packs identifies West Carrollton school district children who are considered to be at-risk and on free or reduced meal plans. With the help of volunteers and the school district, the group distribute meals to those students weekly.

“Many of these children depend on the school for breakfast and lunch,” said Anita Schaengold, special events director for Pirate Packs. “We make sure that lunch on Friday is not their last meal until breakfast Monday morning.”

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During this challenging year, people across the Dayton region have persevered. Throughout December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of individuals and groups who have inspired others.

Having food for the weekend is crucial because studies have found that children pay attention and are more eager to learn when properly fed.

Pirate Packs, which gets the first part of its moniker from West Carrollton athletic team names, meets every two Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. In addition to Schaengold, those involved with the non-profit include Director Joe Cox, President Jon Lewallen, Vice President Ron Millard, Treasurer Julie Millard, Secretary Jennifer Stanton and Board Member Vicki Myers.

This week, Pirate Packs doled outextra meals to area children for the holidays, in addition to toys, courtesy of Cox, who volunteers for Toys for Tots, and made the gift-giving effort a reality.

“This is the first year this has happened and we are so excited and grateful,” Schaengold said.

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Pirate Packs, which is supported through donations from the community and several monetary grants, launched in 2012, first serving students at Frank Nicholas Elementary School. In 2016, it started serving students in all seven district schools, including the Walter Shade Early Childhood Center, West Carrollton Middle School and West Carrollton High School.

Schaengold said the group’s challenge this school year is to identify and find the children and families that need its help.

“Traditionally, we would have organizations volunteer to come help us pack every week and then the schools would come pick up Friday mornings to distribute the food packs,” she said. “We never knew the identity of the kids who were receiving them. This year with remote learning and all the uncertainty with the school schedule, we have taken on ourselves to reach out to the community on Facebook and are having contactless pick ups at our warehouse every two weeks on Thursdays and Saturdays.”

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Pirate Packs estimates it is helping between 80 to 100 children each week, whereas last year it was packing for 300 to 325 children weekly, Schaengold said.

“We need to find more of these families,” she said.

Families in need, or those who wish to donate to help the cause, can visit www.facebook.com/PiratePacks or write to piratepackevents@gmail.com.

INSPIRE DAYTON

Throughout December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year. Read all the stories at DaytonDailyNews.com/inspire-dayton. Tell us who inspired you in 2020 by emailing Jordan.laiird@coxinc.com