Donation from Westbury Woods community absorbs school meal debt for all students; Neighborhood Bridges connection aides district homeless students

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The Neighbors of Westbury Woods (NOWW) community have organized several holiday giving projects for years. This year, they've helped a family in need, collected coats, hats, gloves and other winter apparel for those who are homeless and supported Westerville families and children.

Their latest effort will reach students across Westerville City Schools. Through their donation of $1,080, the neighborhood group has been able to resolve the school meal debt for all students in the district.

"This year, especially, we wanted to do as much as possible to support others and let them know that someone really does care," said Chuck McIlvaine, who led the fundraising project for NOWW.

He, along with other members of the group’s steering committee Chris Jenkins and Diane Barrett, met with Food Service Manager Kari Dennis this week to deliver the check.

“For our students, it means removing one more barrier,” Dennis said. “It will mean when we get back to a typical school year, that they all start fresh and that’s exciting given that 2020 has taken so much. This is something the community has given and we’re grateful for it.”

Also, thanks to a connection between Neighborhood Bridges CEO/Founder Rick Bannister and childhood friend Beth Lewis Zappitello, 150 homeless students and families in need in the district received a $50 Meier gift card for the holidays. In all, the effort raised $8,000, which included a donation from Beth’s husband’s employer, Nike.

“Kindness from 3,000 miles away and from someone we've known, admired, and loved for 40+'s magic!” Bannister said.

In addition to those efforts, American Regent Collection staff donated 63 gift cards totaling more than $2,000 to Westerville families. There were several donors that adopted families for the holidays as well.