Local community center offers needed public service

Local community center offers needed public service

By Jacob Wiegand, @JacobWiegand_DE

While summer often brings fond memories, it can also bring hardship for many families forced to get by without the free meals many children receive at school.

Luckily, there are resources available for families in such need.

The Boyton Street Community Center in Marion hosts a Summer Food Services Program every week through the end of July. The program, administered by the Illinois State Board of Education and funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, runs Monday through Friday until July 31 offering lunch from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and a snack from 3 to 3:30 p.m.


“It’s a means for children to get nutrition during the summer months when they’re out of school and normally they’re not getting a breakfast or a lunch at school,” said Stephanie Willis, executive director of the Boyton Street Community Center.

Margaret Walls, site supervisor of the summer lunch program, said the Marion program since the late 1980s, originally serving meals out of a local church. But in 1990, the program moved to the Boyton Street Community Center.

She said the center sees an average of about 50 or 60 kids and, at times, as many as 90.

However, Walls said the heat is a key factor affecting why the children are not able to attend in such great numbers, as many children must walk to the center to receive their meals.

“A lot of parents work and aren’t able to bring them,” Walls said.

She said there is always a need for more volunteers.

“Our numbers would increase if we had the transportation or someone to volunteer and pick the kids up and bring them in,” Walls said.


Not only does the center offer meals to children ages 1 to 18, it also offers a chance for children to take part in games and activities.

Shamika Simmons, a parent of three who has brought her children to the center at various times during the past couple years, believes the center is a good place for people who do not have much food and do not receive assistance.

She said the center offers meals to her children, as well as arts and crafts, interactions with other children in the community and other activities throughout the day.

“Sometimes kids get comfortable in the summer and they don’t remember everything educationally, and it’s good for them to come here and still hold on to the values they learned during the school year,” Simmons said.

Willis said the board of education seeks sites all over the state to hold these programs for children, with a number of other sites in the region participating in the Summer Food Services Program.

The Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale offers lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Murphysboro locations include the Murphysboro High School, which offers breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; Riverside Park, which offers lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; and the Youth and Recreation Center, which offers lunch from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m. Monday through Thursday.

All programs run through July 31.