One hour after Dale Darcas got word that his father had died on Father’s Day weekend in 2012, he was told that the nonprofit he served as executive director for two years, Caring 4 Kids, was being put to rest, too.
The founder of Caring 4 Kids, Scott Sullivan, had a serious health issue that made continuing the successful children’s charity out of the question. He had to shut down the foundation, which had delivered more than 60,000 weekend bags of food to homeless and at-risk kids since its inception in 2008.
Darcas, 61, was at a crossroad. The married father of three, grandfather of four and Henderson resident since 1996 could either accept the demise of the nonprofit that he had worked with for four years or he could start a new one based on the same principles. He chose the latter. The Serving Our Kids foundation was born in July 2012.
“God spoke to my heart,” he said. “These kids need what we do.”
The problem was and still is basic – homeless children are going hungry on the weekends in the Las Vegas Valley. The Clark County School District Title 1 Homeless Outreach Program for Education identifies more than 2,700 elementary-aged children as homeless living in one of the following situations: car, street, park, RV, community shelter, weekly hotel or doubled up with family or friends.
The Serving Our Kids foundation is a unique blend of an all-volunteer organization, schools, private businesses, civic- and faith-based organizations and local good-hearted shoppers who provide weekend food bags to homeless elementary-age schoolchildren.
“State government is cutting the strings on the safety net, pushing services down to the local level,” said Chris Garvey, a school board trustee for District B. Grant monies from the state will face more required accountability, according to a newly released Department of Health and Human Services grants management memo. She applauds the grass-roots efforts of the Serving Our Kids foundation that receives no government funding or grants. “We are really going to have to come together as a community,” said Garvey.
Food drives are held at local Fresh & Easy, Kmart and Von’s supermarkets. Shoppers are handed a flier as they enter the store and are asked to purchase any of the 12 items pictured. The food has been chosen because it is easy to open and does not need to be cooked or heated.
“Lamping Elementary School (2551 Summit Grove Drive in Henderson) did a food drive for us Nov. 15 at the Fresh & Easy store (at 1450 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway),” said Darcas. “The reason they did it was it was one of their Shop Nights.” Shopping Nights are part of Fresh & Easy’s Shop for Schools fundraising program, which provides a $1 donation to participating schools for every $20 receipt.
“It was a win-win-win. They (representatives from Lamping Elementary) got $750 in receipts for their school. Fresh & Easy did an extra $750 in food sales that night, and we received the donated food for our kids.”
The foundation provides 578 weekend food bags to four Henderson elementary schools: Sewell, 700 E. Lake Mead Drive; McCaw, 330 Tin St.; Taylor, 144 Westminster Way; and Newton, 571 Greenway Road; and five Las Vegas elementary schools: Warren, 6451 Brandywine Way; Thomas, 1560 Cherokee Lane; Ward, 1555 E. Hacienda Ave.; Adcock, 6350 Hyde Ave.; and Pittman, 6333 Fargo Ave.
“Donations of food provide homeless youth with one less worry and enables them to focus in school,” said Paula Zier, Title 1 HOPE coordinator. “We know that with the support of organizations like Serving Our Kids, children are prepared to learn because one of their basic needs is filled.”
Once collected, the food is brought to the donated warehouse space at 330 Tin St. At 6 p.m. each Thursday, volunteers from school groups, businesses or faith- based organizations join regular volunteers to make short order of the assembly of the food bags. Selected volunteers take the bags home and deliver the weekend food bags to the kids on Friday.
Volunteer John White collects all the empty food boxes. He supervises the Community Church of Henderson’s youth group at 360 E. Horizon Drive in the breakdown and recycling of the boxes. “It’s a lot of work. They have to separate everything, but I don’t want it to go to the landfill,” he said. They earn $140 per trailer load.
Shelly Hernandez, a counselor at Thomas Elementary School, said, “If it wasn’t for Serving Our Kids, many of our kids would not be fed.” The year-to-date homeless student total at Thomas is 206, 24 percent of the students enrolled. “Three Square (food bank) has had to cut down, Hernandez said. “Last year I received 50-80 bags. This year they were only able to start with 30.”
For more information about the Serving Our Kids Foundation, visit www.servingourkids.org or contact Darcas at 702-358-1056 or admin@ servingourkids.org.
The fifth Annual Kids Helping Kids Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser is scheduled for March 30 at the Strike Zone Bowling Center at Sunset Station, 1301 W. Sunset Road. Registration information is online.