Reaching out this holiday

The holidays are a time when communities come together, recognizing those less fortunate and taking extra effort to help others. Lakota Local School District (OH) child nutrition & wellness director Chris Burkhardt recognizes that reaching children and families in need is vital all year long, not just around the holidays.

As the president of the board for Reach Out Lakota, a non-profit providing food and clothing assistance to local families, Burkhardt has been working to build close relationships between schools and community charities. He was the driving force behind revamping the Backpack Signup Program as a fast-track for students to quickly access free school supplies, nutrition education and healthy school meals. He is also involved with the local non-profit C3 (Caring Community Collaborative), where he played an integral role in the first-ever Empty Bowls fundraising event, with proceeds benefitting Reach Out Lakota initiatives.

Rallying students to participate in programs that help each has also created camaraderie and community spirit. The “Reach in for Reach Out” campaign is a friendly competition that takes place each fall, pitting schools from the east side of town against those on the west side in a district-wide food drive. Proceeds from the annual battle to collect the most pounds of food gets funneled into the Thanksgiving program, providing families entire holiday meals with all of the trimmings.

Reach Out Lsanta_121315_375akota supports adopt-a-student and adopt-a-family programs in December where others can anonymously donate gifts and gift cards. Families in the program receive donations for holiday meals and food for the extended holiday break. Many students who rely on school meals from the cafeteria during the week are otherwise without healthy options during school vacations.

Burkhardt participates and rallies others in another festive tradition, the annual Santa Suit & Ugly Sweater Fun Run 5K. Supported by local running store Mojo Running, all race proceeds go to benefit holiday outreach efforts at Reach Out Lakota.

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