Deb Malewski
Contributing Writer

What is more memorable than spending a warm summer day at the park, playing with other children, and enjoying a healthy and fun lunch? The Charlotte Assembly of God offers Meet Up and Eat Up, a summer food service program. The program started in June and will run until August 19. Children and their families are invited for lunch Monday through Friday at Oak Park, a tree-shaded neighborhood park with lots of play structures which is located at Seminary and Clinton Streets. Lunch is available from noon until 1 p.m., although on Thursdays it’s moved up to 11:30 a.m. so the children can attend the weekly free movie at the Eaton Theatre.
The Michigan Department of Education administers the program and meals are paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Volunteers from the church prepare and distribute the food.
They come prepared with 120 meals each day and have served as many as 100 and as few as 40. “It’s all hit or miss. We never really know how many to expect,” said Ambrosia DeLeon, who serves as director of the program. Dee McCarrick is the assistant director of Meet Up and Eat Up. The program volunteers are vital to the existence of the program, DeLeon said; it couldn’t happen without their assistance.
The food differs daily, all kid favorites. They might include Lunchables, hamburgers, hotdogs, sandwiches, or taquitos, and pizza is served on Fridays. Fruit and milk are also included. It is free for children under 18 and $3 for adults accompanying them.
“I love it. I grew up in this town, and these people are like family to me,” said DeLeon. “It makes my heart full to be able to love on them this way.”
“They seem to love it, and appear to be appreciative of the meal,” added DeLeon.
This is the first year to have special activities scheduled for the children each day in addition to lunch. Activities have included visits from firefighters, farm animal visitors, arts and crafts, a bounce house, and library programs. Next week Eric McCarrick will teach woodworking skills to the children.
On Monday, July 11, the children were joined by Officer Darrell Slaughter, a six-year veteran of the Charlotte Police Department.
“It lets the kids see the officers not as someone to be feared, but as humans,” said DeLeon.
“It’s a great way to build relationships with the community,” Officer Slaughter said. “It lets them know we are human when they see us here acting ‘normal’ with them. When we’re working, we are usually pretty busy and don’t get much chance to stop and interact with them. In this setting, they learn that they can approach us and be comfortable talking to a police officer.”
“The event definitely helps those who need it financially,” said Alisha Vallance, who brought her children to the Meet Up. “It takes up a third of the day with fun activities rather than sitting at home bored or on the electronics,” she added. “And having the police officer here today is wonderful. It introduces the kids to a local hero. The little kids loved that.”
“It’s all very much appreciated,” she added with a smile.
For more information about the program, contact the Assembly of God church at 1100 East Clinton. By phone, call (517)543-0649.
The church is also sponsoring a Back 2 School Bash on August 10 at 6:30 p.m., which is an event filled with huge inflatables, free food, backpack giveaways, and more, while supplies last