Photo courtesy of Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

WINDHAM — “Operation Summer Snacks,” an initiative of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Windham, annually collects food for children in need who receive bags of food from the “Backpackers” program during the school year but, in many cases, do not have the snacks during the summer.

In 2019, the initiative collected over 2,500 snack items, but in 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, organizers weren’t sure what to expect.

“In a time of uncertainty, we didn’t know whether the program would work last year,” said Jill Russell-Morey, a parish catechetical leader who helped create the initiative in 2016.

Not only did it work, but the generosity of community members led to a staggering 5,200 individual snacks donated and given to the Windham Food Pantry. Donors even had snacks sent directly to Jill’s house from Sam’s Club.

“We more than doubled our previous record year,” said Jill. “May all who helped be richly blessed for their support and efforts.”

In 2021, “Operation Summer Snacks” returns to a more normal collection and distribution process. Through the program, each child receives various individual-sized snacks like applesauce pouches and containers, crackers, fruit cups, raisin boxes and packets, granola bars, pretzel packs, juice boxes and pouches, cereal bars, breakfast biscuits, pudding cups, and popcorn. Gluten-free and nut-free snacks are also collected and donated for those with food sensitivities.

“Snacks or any financial donations can be dropped off in the narthex at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (919 Roosevelt Trail) in Windham,” said Jill. “We are also happy to meet up and receive donations at your house or a specified location. Sometimes large donations are big, bulky, and heavy, and we are happy to do whatever needs to be done to make it easier for the donor.”

In addition, interested parties can also pay via Venmo by calling 207-317-0383 or emailing Jill at russellmoreyjc@yahoo.com.

“Operation Summer Snacks” will continue buying and donating through the beginning of August.

“We work with the food pantry, and they really need our help, especially this summer,” said Jill. “The community we live in is amazing and the parishioners and supporters always help when needed. The Holy Spirit continues to touch and work through people which provides great hope.”