Norwin Lions Club lends paw to elementary school students

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 11:12 p.m.

The Norwin Lions Club wants to make sure students at Hahntown and Stewartsville elementary schools do not go hungry.

The club plans to begin fundraising efforts for its Kitty Sack Project, which would send 25 students at the two schools home with enough food to make it through the weekend.

Club member Dina Denning, who started the Rotary Club of Norwin's Backpack Project, which is nearly identical to the Kitty Sack Project, said the Lions Club plans to provide nutritious meals to children living in poverty who might otherwise go hungry when they're not in school.

“My original goal with the Backpack Project was to make sure every elementary student at Norwin was taken care of,” Denning said. “Because the task is daunting, it's difficult for one organization to handle all of the students in need.”

The Rotary Club of Norwin provides backpacks of food to students at Sheridan Terrace Elementary School, Denning said.

The Lions Club worked with Norwin School District administrators, who identified 25 children at one elementary school who might be in need, based on who receives free or reduced-price lunches.

Lions International, the club's parent organization, mainly is known for collecting eyeglasses to donate to the less fortunate and those with impaired vision, said Norwin Lions Club president Eric Woods.

The Kitty Sack Project is an opportunity to show the club is interested in serving the entire community, not just those with impaired vision, he said.

“Some kids don't eat properly once they leave school on Friday until they come back on Monday,” Woods said. “We can't just turn our heads and think it's an impossible problem for our area.”

The club plans to work with Giant Eagle to develop menus and pack food in each backpack, while Eric Belak of Belak Flowers expects to deliver the backpacks to the two schools on Fridays, Denning said.

Denning said the club plans to let administrators distribute the food to students outside the classroom to allow them to remain anonymous.

The club hopes to start the program in January, but needs to collect donations and do some fundraising, Denning said.

The food in each backpack costs approximately $10, requiring $250 per week to provide enough for each student. With a 32-week school year, Denning said, it will cost approximately $8,000 to purchase enough food.

“We want to put the challenge out to organizations where they can donate $320 to sponsor a child to make sure they're fed over the weekend during the entire school year,” Denning said.

The Lions Club started fundraising efforts by selling T-shirts through Denning's company, CSDI in North Huntingdon, for $10 each.

On March 16, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Circleville Volunteer Fire Department on Robbins Station Road, the club hopes to continue raising funds with its first Cub Cake Wars, which is a cupcake bake-off and donation drive.

The club also plans to sell cookbooks with recipes from residents throughout the Norwin region, Denning said.

“The quicker we can start raising money, the sooner we'll have the chance to feed these children,” Denning said.

Once the club gets the Kitty Sack Project established, Woods said, he would like to see it continue to grow to include more students and branch out to other school districts.

“We really need to confront this issue,” Woods said.

For more information on the Kitty Sack Project, contact Denning at or 724-863-4104, ext. 410.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or

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