A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: There are good people in our state, and one of them is feeding kids this summer

By Steve Flairty
Special to NKyTribune

The first thing that one should know about Tammy Spicer is that she is a small-town gal, and that she particularly likes her life around Falmouth. Tammy graduated from Pendleton County High School in the town, and, she said with a grin, “I couldn’t wait to stay. I’ve always lived there and don’t plan to live anywhere else.”

That’s a good thing for the folks in her community, because she makes it a practice to encourage and help vulnerable young people living in all parts of the area. A few summers ago, in 2015, she founded a program in Falmouth called “Feeding the Kids.”

Falmouth Christian Church lawn with volunteers from Morgan Christian Church

The program’s mission in Pendleton County is quite simple, according to its Facebook page: “to make sure children have something to eat during the summer.”

Clearly put, Feeding the Kids is an extension of a weekend meal program that many schools provide to eligible students during the regular school year. It is something of which Tammy is well aware, as she is a primary teacher assistant at Southern Elementary School in Falmouth. Many schools across Kentucky direct the Summer Food Service program, and Pendleton County has in the past. But according to Tammy, the participation wasn’t strong. “For whatever reason, people just didn’t show up for it,” she noted.

People do come with the Feeding the Kids program, however. Now in the third summer, thousands of meals have been served, mostly at Veteran’s Park, Falmouth, or the Butler Community Park, in northern Pendleton County. A new location, at First Baptist Church, Falmouth, was added this summer of 2017. Each “feed” lasts about 30 minutes and takes place once per week, with often about 20 volunteers helping out.

“We got started a little late the first summer (2015),” said Tammy, “but we gave out 830 lunches in six weeks. Last year, in 2016, we added a new location at a church in Falmouth and gave out 1,665 lunches in total. This summer, we’ve done 1674 with still four weeks to go.”

Tammy’s brainchild for the venture started early in the summer of 2015, during the time she was working in a youth summer camp at the Plum Creek Christian Church, in southern Campbell County. “I saw a picture on Facebook of a little school bus painted white and inside it showed little kiddos’ picnic tables with totally bright paint. It was called ‘The Feeding Bus’,” she said, “and that’s all it took.

“Anybody who knows me knows it just takes a little and the wheels just grind.”

She thought about the many kids she knew from her classes and others around the school who received nutritious snacks to take home on weekends. It was a good thing, indeed. But now, it had been a few weeks since the school year ended, and these same children still needed further nourishment, she figured.

Tammy threw out an idea she had to friends about helping those children in need. How about gathering donated non-perishable food, plus obtaining financial support to buy fresh food locally? A place to store the provisions would be needed, along with a ready source of volunteers. “Could this work?” she asked. Most she talked to were in agreement that it would likely be feasible…and so how would Tammy get started?

Tammy Spicer

“I’m not afraid to ask anybody for anything,” she said. “I’m kind of bold that way.”

She did start asking boldly, and she soon had a place to store the food, at the Falmouth Christian Church. She quickly received the support of the local Pendleton County Education Foundation, plus got other churches in the area onboard, who offered both financial and volunteer help. A lady saw Lisa Arnold, the program’s first treasurer, in downtown Falmouth and handed her a check for $500. Feeding the Kids became an almost instant success in 2015, and is growing. It is thought that well over a thousand individuals have played, at least, a small part in bringing the program to fruition.

“There are so many people in every county who want to do good. They just need an avenue to help,” said Tammy. “All I did was kick that ball down the street. The ball’s still rolling.”

Early on, according to Lisa Arnold, “her mind was made up and she was going to make Feeding the Kids happen one way or the other. She has a passion for kids that is unequaled. Her heart and motives are genuinely pure and she just wants every child to have as much as she can help provide them with. The kids love her dearly and care as much for her as she does for them.”

Just recently, Tammy Spicer is finding another way to help remove barriers to the well-being and success of young people in Pendleton County. She’s using her background as a sports enthusiast, both as a participant and coach, to start another project. It’s called “Instant Replay,” and her aim is to recycle used sporting equipment, such as shoes, into the hands of ones having difficulty affording items needed to play. Like Feeding the Kids, her newest project is gaining traction rapidly, a tribute to her authentic, compassionate heart that inspires others.

For more information or if you desire to donate to either of the two programs, visit the Facebook page Feeding the Kids or phone Tammy at 859-912-4326.

Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood day trips (and sometimes overnight ones) orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points being in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state now. After teaching 28 years, Steve spends much of his time today writing and reading about the state, and still enjoys doing those one dayers (and sometimes overnighters). “Kentucky by Heart” shares part and parcel of his joy. A little history, much contemporary life, intriguing places, personal experiences, special people, book reviews, quotes, and even a little humor will, hopefully, help readers connect with their own “inner Kentucky.”

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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