No child should go hungry. But OAPSE members know that thousands of Ohio children don’t get enough to eat. We wanted to help – so we started OAPSE Making a Difference, Inc. (OMAD) to help feed hungry public school students across our state.
OMAD is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, established by the OAPSE/AFSCME State Executive Board after members participated in a community service project at the AFSCME Women’s Conference in Denver. Our executive board members felt so good about that experience, they wanted to establish a charitable organization that focuses on reducing hunger among the students we serve. We know that hungry children are not at their best and cannot learn to their full potential. Yet many of our students come to school hungry every day. We wanted to help as many of “our kids” as we could with volunteer hours and donations – and OMAD is the result.
Since the spring of 2014, OMAD has raised more than $120,000 from union leaders, members, staff, OAPSE and our vendors. Past OMAD projects include establishing a permanent food bank at Fairland Local Schools in southern Ohio – among the poorest school districts in the state – and providing take-home meals and tote bags to 2,000 students at select elementary schools in Columbus City Schools, another poor district. We also worked with a vendor to provide books to each elementary student. The OAPSE staff also used OMAD to provide holiday gifts to the child of an OAPSE bus driver killed while saving one of her students from a moving bus.
In May 2016, we targeted East Cleveland City Schools, where OAPSE Local 181 members provide services to children from the most impoverished families in the state.
We stuffed and delivered tote bags filled with non-perishable food items to 1,500 elementary and middle school students in five schools throughout the district. More than 100 participants in the 2016 OAPSE Conference visited Chambers Elementary School to meet students and deliver the totes.
We also donated gift cards to 900 high school students at Shaw High School so they could purchase two foot-long subs. The owner of the Subway near the high school worked with us to give us a reduced rate on the cards. His donation was more than $2,700. So Shaw students have a healthy option for meals and can access the Subway shop without a car. Total donations for the East Cleveland OMAD project were $27,078.
In the spring of 2017, our OMAD project was in Lima City Schools, where workers are members of 137, 443 and 306, and it was a big success. We provided meals and snacks to 1,400 elementary students who are among the most economically disadvantaged in Ohio.
In 2018, we headed to Zanesville City Schools, where we distributed bags of food to 2,000 pre-school and elementary school students. Members of Local 003 joined state officers, OAPSE district leaders and administrators in passing out the food that was made possible by more than $12,000 in donations.
Canton City Schools was the home for OMAD in 2019. The members of locals 107, 161, 161A, and 609 helped raise more than $13,000 and stuffed more than 2,000 bags for pre-school and elementary students in the school district.
The OMAD project in 2020 was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as soon as we were able, OAPSE members were back to helping hungry children.
In the fall of 2021, the members of Local 343 at Manchester City Schools stuffed bags of food for pre-K and elementary students and provided $15 vouchers at a local pizza shop for middle school and high school students. They were joined by the superintendent and OAPSE leaders on distribution day.
We are already gearing up for the 2022 spring OMAD project (and plan to do one in the fall as well). During the OAPSE conference in April, delegates will stuff bags for 1,500 elementary students at Fremont City Schools. The bags will be delivered the first week of May.
Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to OMAD to support the project at Fremont. You can make the donation as an individual. And your local union and district can also donate.
Thanks for helping feed hungry children across Ohio!
For more information about how you can help, call the state office at 1-800-786-2773.