Harry K Foundation sponsors 500 Christmas meal boxes

Perdue employee Paulette Parker carries a box of food to a vehicle ready to be distributed to students and families in Delaware. Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

“Let’s play Jenga,” a volunteer exclaimed Friday morning as he prepared to pack more cases of food inside the vehicle of a school official from the parking lot at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Milford Branch.

The Harry K Foundation sponsored Christmas meal boxes filled with a feast to soon be distributed to 500 families pre-identified by school officials throughout the state. With holiday staples and Perdue chicken roasters ready to go in cases, passionate volunteers gathered Friday morning to stuff them into vehicles headed to schools with Harry K Foundation sponsored food pantries.

Harry Keswani, owner of Atlantic Jewelry in Rehoboth Beach, started the foundation in 2013 with one goal in mind.

“The idea is to alleviate childhood hunger and create public awareness that it’s an issue. No child should go to sleep hungry. And if they have a full belly, they can learn better, too. These children are our future. We need to take care of them,” Mr. Keswani said.

The foundation now serves 40 food pantries housed in schools across the state and provides 625 backpacks full of food weekly during the school year through the Food Bank of Delaware, according to the organization founder.

Volunteers take a moment to pose for a photo while helping the Harry K Foundation provide 500 Christmas meal boxes, along with chicken roasters from Perdue. Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

“We do the Thanksgiving boxes, too. And, of course, Christmas boxes. This is the time of plenty. It’s Christmas, my favorite season. We just want to help families have a nice meal over Christmas and have something that is stress free,” Mr. Keswani said.

The Christmas meal boxes included stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, canned vegetables, pumpkin, pie crust, a roasting pan and, of course, a chicken ready to cook. Milk was also sent home with families.

Volunteers made quick work of the task at hand Friday morning as they loaded the vehicles of school officials with cases of food. But providing the opportunity to feed these families took a lot longer, according to Mr. Keswani.

“Atlantic Jewelers has been in business for 32 years and we’ve done decent; that’s how we can do this. But, it’s collectively; it’s not just me. We just had a big gala and I’m always looking for new sponsors and donations. I was just on the phone with someone today,” he explained.

The task of ending childhood hunger in Delaware won’t end with holiday meal boxes, but those who witness it first-hand say the impact of the gesture is immeasurable.

A group of employees from Perdue joins Harry Keswani in a photo as they wait for another vehicle to arrive. Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

Family Crisis Therapist Linda Schimp from North Dover Elementary School drove to the Food Bank of Delaware’s Milford Branch to collect food for 12 families at her school. She said, “It’s a difference between them having a holiday dinner or not. Most of them are struggling to put food on the table, so this is a big help.”

Other schools and organizations who received boxes Friday morning included the Community Resource Center, Kent County Secondary ILC, Campus Community School, North and South Dover Elementary Schools, North Laurel Elementary School, Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School and schools in the Seaford and Cape Henlopen School Districts.

The Harry K Foundation, the Food Bank of Delaware and Perdue also provided volunteers for the event to make it a smooth morning for all involved.

“I’m from West Africa. I have seen people struggling. So, helping is a blessing,” Perdue employee Chihosim Eric said. He volunteered time after his shift was over to help pack the vehicles with food.

Local businessman Harry Keswani loads a vehicle with a case of milk. His organization, the Harry K Foundation, sponsored 500 Christmas meal boxes to be distributed to schools throughout the state. Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

“Taking time away from my sleep, I can get that back to make a child smile,” he added.

Paulette Parker, also from Perdue, echoed his comments.

“I think this is a great opportunity to help families. When I saw the email asking for volunteers, I thought it was very important to be able to have a hand in supporting this. It’s important to give up personal time to help families in need,” she said.

Feeding families is a good start, Mr. Keswani would agree.

“If we don’t eat for a day, we’re hungry. If we don’t eat for two days, we’re starving. If we don’t eat for a third day, there’s a pain in our bellies. And we have some kids like that here,” he said. “Sometimes hunger doesn’t look like the kids in another country with a sunken belly. Our kids are just as hungry, you just don’t see it. We’re doing something good with the help of the community.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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