church to assemble the packs; others deliver bags to the schools and, in some cases, distribute them to students.
Ashley Wertz was surprised — and grateful — when an official from Miami View Elementary in South Charleston called to ask whether Wertz wanted food sent home with her children.
Her husband had to leave his job in October because of health problems — anxiety attacks, seizures, migraines — and, because she was a stay-at-home mom, the couple and their five children were left without an income.
“This really means the world,” said Wertz, noting that Sufficient Grace sent home extra bags for her 2½-year-old twins. “We didn’t even have money to go buy food. I told Tracy, ‘Thanks for being the hands and feet of Jesus’ because that’s what I felt she was.”
Wertz has since returned to the workforce, so her family no longer requires the help of Sufficient Grace. Still, she appreciates knowing that the service is available.
In the two years that the nonprofit has worked with London City Schools, Melissa Canney has seen the number of children accessing the service grow from 50 to 165 in the district’s three schools.
Canney, a district support specialist focusing on nonacademic barriers to learning, said so-called “food insecurity” is an issue in many classrooms.
“Teachers every day see students who come to school reliant on school lunches and breakfasts,” she said. “We get concerned when they leave here, especially on the weekends or for vacations.”
Sufficient Grace has plugged the gap, she said, without straining the resources of schools or teachers. Some students rely entirely on their school for food; others need occasional help to stretch dollars.
“So many are living with aunts, uncles and grandparents on fixed incomes,” Canney said.
Students in London receive bags only on Fridays because of the time it takes to manage such a large delivery, Canney said.
The program, she said, has had unintended benefits, such as allowing staff to build relationships with these at-risk students.
Sufficient Grace’s presence at West Jefferson Middle School has helped boost attendance, school counselor Amy Girard said.
“A lot of my kids who don’t have the best grades come to school to get meals,” she said.
When children go to school hungry, Girard added, they often fall asleep and tend to be irritable. She keeps bags
in a desk drawer for any student needing a snack.
In addition to the food, every few months Kronk and her team provide hygiene bags full of toiletries, too.
“She’s really thought of everything,” Girard said. “She’s gone as far as to create goodie bags for Easter and Christmas.”
Kronk said she couldn’t have imagined the organization’s growth. She relies on the community — namely food pantries, fundraisers and individual and corporate donations — to sustain the service, which costs about $35 a month per child.
And she couldn’t do it without her 25 regular volunteers, who this school year alone have donated a combined 5,500 hours.
After retiring as a preschool teacher four years ago, Valerie Murry said, she couldn’t wait to get involved with Sufficient Grace. Three times a week at Norwood, she hands out bags containing about 10 items — Kraft Easy Mac, peanut-butter crackers and other simple foods.
“I get to see the kids, and they’re really appreciative,” said Murry, who lives southeast of West Jefferson. “A principal stopped in one day and told me, ‘You don’t realize how much you do.’”
Knowing the impact of the group’s efforts is what keeps Kronk at it from year to year.
“A kindergartner once told me, ‘All this time, I thought I had a food fairy putting food in my backpack,’” Kronk said.
“I bawled like a baby.”
“Port Saint Joe” (Brothers Osborne):
Named after the Florida town in which it was recorded, T.J. and John Osborne hope to replicate the success of their critically acclaimed 2016 debut album, “Pawn Shop.” Other notable releases:
“Eat the Elephant” (A Perfect Circle), “Church of Scars” (Bishop Briggs)