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Norwin Lions Club's Kitty Sack Program benefits students

| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 8:21 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Norwin Star
Every Friday morning during the school year, Eric Belak loads up the back of his SUV and distributes backpacks containing meals enough for the weekend to three elementary schools in the Norwin District. The backpack program is sponsored by the Norwin Lions Club.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Norwin Star
Every Friday morning during the school year, Eric Belak loads up the back of his SUV and distributes backpacks containing meals enough for the weekend to three elementary schools in the Norwin District. The backpack program is sponsored by the Norwin Lions Club.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Norwin Star
Every Friday morning during the school year, Eric Belak loads up the back of his SUV and distributes backpacks containing meals enough for the weekend to three elementary schools in the Norwin District. The backpack program is sponsored by the Norwin Lions Club.

It didn't take long for school nurses to realize children in the Norwin School District were arriving to classes hungry, which hampered their focus on academics.

“When they see a kid coming in every Monday with a headache or a bellyache, that's a red flag,” said Dina Denning, a Lions Club member. “If they're sitting there watching the clock because their stomachs are growling because they haven't eaten all weekend, they're not going to get out of school what they need to.”

Each week, the Norwin Lions Club distributes backpacks with seven meals and snacks for needy children to take home over the weekend. The Kitty Sack Program benefits about 26 children at Hahntown, Sunset Valley and Stewartsville elementary schools.

Children at Norwin's fourth elementary school, Sheridan Terrace, are part of a similar program with the Norwin Rotary Club.

The backpacks are filled with fresh fruits, snacks and microwaveable dishes, such as macaroni and cheese or ravioli. Children receive a full backpack on Fridays at school and return the empty backpack Monday.

It costs about $8,320 to provide meals for children every year, or about $260 every week. If the Lions Club had additional funding, Denning said, she would expand the program to benefit other children.

The program operates on volunteers and donations. Last year, the club raised about $8,000 during a cupcake contest at Circleville Volunteer Fire Department.

“Everybody at some point needs a hand,” Denning said. “If we can make a difference in these families' lives by helping their children, just imagine what these kids can do when they get older.”

Almost nothing will keep volunteer Eric Belak from delivering the full backpacks to the schools.

Each Friday morning, he stops at Giant Eagle to pick up the full backpacks and follows a delivery route to the schools, where he also picks up the empty backpacks.

“Apparently, they have very little to eat over the weekends,” he said. “If I think that they're going to cancel school, I call Giant Eagle and we'll schedule a day earlier. They need it for the weekend. I don't want them to go one weekend without.”

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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