[by Ellen Rosenbloom]
Stan Curtis is one man who has made a difference. For the past 23 years, he has been on a journey to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate, homeless or in need. His journey has been the impetus for Kentucky Harvest, a privately funded organization that currently provides some two-million meals each day to hungry people in over 130 cities in the United States. Members of the National Council of Jewish Women, Louisville Section, learned much about feeding the hungry from Curtis, who was the guest speaker at their opening meeting of the year on Wednesday, October 6, at the River Bend Winery.
It all started with green beans in Curtis’ favorite buffet restaurant in 1986. When he approached the beans in the buffet’s offerings, the bowl was less than full. Management replaced the bowl of beans with a bowl that was completely full, which caused Curtis to worry about what would happen to the half-full bowl of beans. When he was told the beans would have to be thrown out, the idea for Kentucky Harvest was born. Since then, millions of people have had food they didn’t want or need given away food to millions of people who wanted or needed it.
In 1986, when Kentucky Harvest was born, Louisville was named to the list of cities with the most “less fortunate” or homeless people. The average age of the people on this list was 50. Today, such a list shows the average age of need at nine. That is the statistic that caused Curtis to focus his “business” of feeding the hungry on children.
Children who are well nourished are more alert, more aware, and do better in school – it makes a big difference, according to teachers and school officials. Thus, Blessings in a Backpack was born locally.
Blessings in a Backpack serves 3,000 children in 22 schools throughout the school year. Each Friday, children-in-need receive “backpacks” filled with nutritious foods such as oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, beef, tomato sauce, apple sauce, pop tarts and more. For many children, these are the only foods they will have to eat over the weekend. During the school week, the children eat federally subsidized foods. The cost for the “Blessings” program is $80 per child per year, which is privately funded.
Curtis feels blessed to set the perfect example of how one person can make a difference. He recognized several women in the NCJW audience, long-time friends of his, who have also made a difference – Marlene Gordon, from the Coalition for the Homeless; Karen Morrison of Gilda’s Club; and Carolyn Balleisen, long time community activist. Curtis also partnered with the Junior League of Louisville in kicking off the “Blessings” project.
The NCJW opening meeting was organized by vice presidents Betsy Prussian and Beth Salamon, with Leni Sweet, President, presiding. Some 60 NCJW members and guests attended.