Feed Our Rural Kids (FORK) Inc., was created to raise money to provide nutritional support to children from food insecure homes. 

“To date, with community support, we have been able to fund current efforts and create a few additional programs to fill specific needs,” said FORK President Perry Pokrandt. “As we expected, it will be a never-ending mission.”

What FORK volunteers did not expect was to create such an organization in the middle of a health and economic crisis that has complicated the challenge exponentially. 

“Due to increasing demands due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FORK had planned the Cash for Kids fundraiser as a collaborative effort with all the financial institutions in Eagle River,” said FORK Vice President Scott Foster. “Circumstances have dictated that all funds raised be shared equally with other programs also working to feed kids in our community.

All funds raised through the Cash for Kids fundraiser will be distributed to eight programs serving the needs of children from food-insecure homes across the Northland Pines School District.

Individuals interested in making a donation to Cash for Kids can do so by stopping at any Eagle River bank or credit union before Sept. 7. 

“Being part of helping children in support of the Cash for Kids fundraiser was an easy decision for our bank,” said Kelly Skarbek, mortgage lender with Great North Bank. “We know that our customers will want to help the kids and that this community will help the program reach its goal of 8,000 additional meals for children in our community.”

Four of the programs supported by this Cash for Kids fundraiser are:

• FORK Cares provides nutritional support to children during times when traditional food support is not available to them through their school setting. Through the program, FORK targets up to 150 children from food insecure homes during summer, winter and spring vacation periods. 

 • The Room provides emergency food and clothing to elementary aged children within the Northland Pines School District during school hours. The program is funded by supporters of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in partnership with the Northland Pines School District.

• Jump Start was created to provide more fruits and vegetables to children birth to 4 years of age. The program is funded by FORK and administered by the Vilas County Health Department to families at under 130% of the federal poverty levels for household incomes.

• The Weekend Backpack Program, coordinated by Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, was created to provide children nutritional support on the weekends because the traditional school-based meal support is limited to the Monday through Friday school week. 

Last week’s FORK article explained the other four programs — Vilas Food Pantry, Formula Support Program, The Locker and Meals NOW — that are supported financially by the Cash for Kids fundraiser. 

“It’s exciting to me, in taking on the Cash for Kids fundraiser, that these financial institutions all have a chance to make such a widespread difference in this community,” said Keith Kentala, FORK board advisor and Cash for Kids chairman. “By supporting these eight nutritional support programs serving children, we are collaboratively working to tear down hunger as a challenge to the success of our children.”

“Being new to this community, I was amazed at the role each of the leaders of our local financial institutions have taken within this Cash for Kids fundraiser,” said Tori Dunlap, the new branch manager at Peoples State Bank. “At Peoples, we are excited to be part of this effort to feed the children of this community.” 

“At Great North Bank, we see the value of each of these individual programs in support of our children. So we invite our customers to help us to help the kids,” added Kelly Skarbek, mortgage lender at Eagle River’s Great North Bank.

“Thirty-seven years ago, I came to town just as the Vilas Food Pantry was being organized,” said Pokrandt. “The pantry continues to serve the community well, but the challenge for families with children is even greater. That is why we created FORK. It is why we have collaborated on this Cash for Kids fundraiser. It is why we are asking for your support.”

In addition to donating by cash or check at Eagle River financial institutions, individuals also can donate at feedourruralkids.org.

Checks to fund local food support programs also can be mailed to Cash for Kids, 4887 Echo Ridge Drive, Eagle River, WI 54521. 

All donations are tax deductible under new charitable contribution guidelines as adopted by the recently passed CARES Act.