ShareNet is part of an ‘incredibly generous community’ | ShareNet & You

ShareNet’s program serving school kids, Food to Grow On, served an all-time high number of students in November.

Wolfle Elementary School staff attribute recent increases to the parent-teacher conferences held in October. A lot of information can be revealed in these conferences, including struggles such as food insecurity in the household.

Wolfle students and staff give back to ShareNet too.  We have been the lucky beneficiary of their Penny Drive for the past couple of years; they hosted a food drive through Dec. 13. Members of a school group called Meaningful Work, who run notes, have flag duty, and address various tasks around school, are charged with collecting the food donations from each classroom.

We spoke with school staff recently, the Meaningful Work group made two trips to all the classrooms. These donations will be consolidated into ShareNet’s general holiday distribution.

For Thanksgiving, we served 561 individuals among 170 families. The amount of food given is based on family size, but both numbers must be counted for federal reporting.

Dee Frank, counselor at Kingston Middle School, says, “Our families’ needs have increased dramatically, but community resources have seriously dwindled.  We are so grateful that ShareNet continues to be a steady, committed provider for families who are desperately trying to make ends meet.”

Principal Ben Degnin of Wolfle Elementary School, says, “For many [Wolfle families], they are just on the edge between making it or not, and these packs allow them that extra they need. Students are always eager to pick up the packs.”

Rick Goudzwaard, counselor at Gordon Elementary School, says, “Children do better in school and socially when they are not hungry and have access to adequate nutrition.”

Volunteer Jerry Ulsund, who with Linda Hell and Susan Frank drives the everyday work of the program, says, “I am blessed to be part of the Food to Grow program at ShareNet. This is one of the most vital programs in our community as it supplies food for kids who might otherwise go hungry on the weekend. There is nowhere else that I could volunteer that could be so meaningful to the recipients and to me.”

Many people are hard at work on ShareNet’s Christmas Gift Shop, on Dec. 18 in Bayside Community Church. Two of the hardest-working people are members of Hansville Community Church, who have crafted 11 doll beds and three rocking horses, mostly from cedar. They cut them out on a band saw after designing the pieces, sand them, router them, use a biscuit joiner so there are no screws or staples, then oil, stain, or paint.

Each bed is unique; one is a four-poster bed and some are cradles. The Ladies Ministry of Hansville Community Church sew bed clothes and doll clothes to complete these ingenious handcrafted gifts.

Kingston Rotary and Kiwanis are also very generous with the gift shop. Judy and Dick Osborn collect gifts for about nine months, with a special emphasis on the older kids, for whom gifts are often underrepresented. Kingston IGA and Chamber of Commerce put up trees with paper ornaments containing gift suggestions.

ShareNet board member Barbara Brumagin of Bayside says, “When the parent arrives to shop they are given a personal assistant who holds a large Santa bag while the parent picks out gifts. Tables are set up and labeled by gender and age grouping. Each child receives stocking stuffers, a stuffed animal, a large gift, a book, and a family gift or game. Often parents break down in tears because of the encouragement and generosity the gifts represent.”

One of the biggest holiday joys for me, personally, is to see the way the Kingston community comes together for people in need. This is an incredibly generous community, and we’re all so lucky to be part of it.

— Mark Ince is executive director of ShareNet. Contact him at


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