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Paducah Bank program benefits four local agencies

BY KATHLEEN FOXkfox@paducahsun.com

Four local, diverse nutritional programs will benefit from the monetary donations raised each time a Paducah Bank customer uses the bank's credit or debit card.

Bank officials selected the Paducah Cooperative Ministry, the Community Kitchen, the River City Mission and the 4-H Food Backpack project to receive the funds quarterly throughout 2014. Paducah Bank's "Swipe and Serve" campaign, which was launched at the beginning of the year, will donate $1 for each 100 signature-based transaction made by individual bank customers, according to Susan Guess, senior vice president of marketing.

She said the four selected community projects stood out because of their work providing sustainable resources for different pockets of needy residents in Paducah and McCracken County. Each of the four selected nutritional programs are nonprofit and rely on donations and volunteer hours. Guess said the goal is about 250,000 transactions per month, which would raise $7,500 in funding quarterly.

Leaders of the selected food programs expressed gratitude for the additional resources that will go toward helping to negate the continued level of high need in the area.

Sally Michelson, executive director of the Community Kitchen, said the money is vital to daily operational costs because the amount of those in need varies daily. She said as food costs increase, the struggles to provide a nutritious, filling and complete meal increase as well. The organization provided more than 56,000 meals during 2013 on a Monday-to-Friday schedule.

"It means more than you can imagine," she said. "We want to provide a meal and treat our folks like our own family and friends."

The Community Kitchen gives out meals with protein, vegetables, salads, sides and desserts because oftentimes it will be some people's only meal of the day. Additional funding also allows the kitchen to tailor meals to specific age groups including children, senior citizens and families, Michelson said.

"We are so grateful for every penny that comes into the kitchen," she said. "From week to week, it helps us be prepared for any level of need."

Scott Johnson, director of the River City Mission, said the harsh winter weather has made gathering donations more difficult. He said the organization, which currently has about 75 live-in residents and provides more than 3,000 meals per month, doesn't turn anyone away.

"We love it, the community has been so good to us," he said. "In this area, assistance is a two-way street and it's a privilege to know the community understands us."

Robert Tashjian, 4-H youth development agent with the backpack project, said the program provides nonperishable food items to Paducah Public School and McCracken County elementary to high school students over the weekends. Since its beginnings in 2000, the number served has grown from 15 students to 420 weekly, with an increasing need each year.

"Every cent goes toward food, so the money is quite well spent." he said. "For many children and their families, this is their only meal of the day."

He said items are tailored to younger students that can be easily opened and eaten without preparation time. The program spends about $1,000 weekly but still cannot meet the high level of demand, according to Tashjian.

"It's wonderful that a local bank can help contribute to our local program and every bit helps to feed kids," he said.

Necie Smith, emergency services coordinator with the Paducah Cooperative Ministry, said the level of need skyrocketed in 2013, increasing from an average of 350 to 500 households per month. The organization provided a four- or five-day supply of emergency rations to more than 5,600 families last year. She added the importance of the Farm to Food Bank program to providing fresh and healthy vegetables to those in need.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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