Knowing the impact that coronavirus would have on families and the local food shelf led Menahga School Superintendent Kevin Wellen to issue a food drive challenge in his community. Easter was coming and he wanted to make sure families had meals to enjoy.

He started with sharing that he would personally match dollar for dollar every donation made to the Menahga Area Food Shelf, up to $1,000.

The community responded by donating more than twice that amount in one week. About 50 families contributed $2,340. Wellen increased his final donation to $1,200, bringing the total raised for the community’s food shelf to more than $3,500.

The Impact

Typically, the buying power of food shelves is $3 worth of food for every $1 donated. Given that, this food drive provided nearly $10,000 in food for people in need in the Menahga area.

The district’s staff also has been preparing and delivering 2,100 meals per day for students.

“The support and appreciation from the parents and community have been nothing short of tremendous,” Wellen said. He has named food for kids as a top priority in his communication to parents.

How It Started

He started by working with Michelle Rinke Koch and the school’s student council (called the SWAT Team) to get the challenge in place.

Then, he officially issued the challenge during a board meeting, igniting the “Make Wellen Pay” fundraiser. The local reporter shared the news and the district put the challenge on its Facebook page.  Wellen also sent a message to the district’s families.

“In our small area, the food self usage has doubled in the past weeks,” said Koch, who is a Menahga Elementary teacher and a member of the MREA Board. “We need to take care of each other.”

Koch posted updates on the district’s Facebook page. See the video of the results.

How Did It Work

People primarily mailed and dropped off cash and checks, but some got creative. “Some of the families placed money in the coolers (used for meal deliver at the school) at the end of their driveways for us to pick up,” Koch said. “Some kids even put coins in a ziplock bag and left it in their coolers.”


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