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Students receive meals through SHINE program

Kendra and Tristan Holtzman of Palmerton both looked like the cat that ate the canary as they walked away from S.S. Palmer Elementary on Thursday morning.

That’s because Kendra, 10, and her brother, Tristan, 7, left the school with their meals and STEM kits in tow as part of the SHINE Afterschool Program.

“I like it because we get to have fun,” Kendra said as she looked through her bags from the back seat of her mother’s vehicle. “We learn, but we get to have fun while we learn.”

Tristan added, “it’s fun,” and that he enjoys the “homework.”

Their mother, Amanda Holtzman, also gave the SHINE (Schools and Homes in Education) program a glowing review.

“Kendra’s been with it since it started,” Amanda said. “It’s nice to have homework help, and get to learn a fun way to do the homework.”

That’s exactly the impetus behind the program, according to Michelle Davis, lead SHINE teacher.

“We wanted to make sure the students in our community are getting fed for the summer,” said Davis, who noted the program is offered twice at week in both the Palmerton and Weatherly school districts.

Palmerton currently has two pickup days, Monday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at S.S. Palmer Elementary and Towamensing Elementary. They will continue getting meals through Aug. 7.

Students who choose to participate get three breakfast and lunch meals on Monday and an additional two on Thursday to carry them through the rest of the week.

Davis said the students receive breakfast and lunch, and that each of the families gets five meals a week.

She said the food consists of a wide range of goodies such as pizza bagels with instructions on how to make them, walking tacos, pork sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, hoagies, chicken salad, turkey and cheese sandwiches, and ham and cheese sandwiches.

The students also receive STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) kits with activities for students in grades 1-5.

Count Theresa Amey of Palmerton among the many parents who are grateful for the program.

Amey, who picked up the meals and kits with her daughters Natalya Whitesell, 8, and Elizabeth Amey, 3, said the program has been a real godsend.

“SHINE is an awesome program that helps a lot with their homework; it gives them something to do after school,” Theresa said. “The lunch program is an awesome program.”

Rachel Strucko, SHINE program director, said the program is a partnership between SHINE, Palmerton Area School District and Weatherly Area School District.

Strucko said that 600 meals on Mondays and 400 meals on Thursdays are going out to Palmerton families on a weekly basis through the program.

“We felt it was important to continue serving meals,” Strucko said. “We’re super excited it’s working out really well. We’re doing everything we can to help the community.”

Natalya Whitesell, 8, receives her meals Thursday morning outside the S.S. Palmer Elementary cafeteria from Michelle Davis, Lead SHINE teacher, as part of the SHINE Afterschool Program. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
Tristan Holtzman, 7, and his sister, Kendra Holtzman, 10, leave S.S. Palmer Elementary Thursday morning with their meals and STEM kits in hand as part of the SHINE Afterschool Program.