LACONIA — Got Lunch! Laconia kicked off its third summer of delivering lunch items to city school children Wednesday morning by dedicating year's program to Lily Johnson, a 14-year-old Laconia Middle School student, who died after being struck by a car on the Messer Street bridge in April.
Johnson was a volunteer in 2011, the first year of the Got Lunch! program, and is remembered by her friends and the community for her outgoing personality and her "Mother Hen" attitude towards her younger brother, Keegan, and her many neighborhood friends.
Mayor Mike Seymour spoke at the dedication and worked with the 32 volunteers who were present to put together the bags of groceries which will go out more than 500 children city-wide every week this summer.
John Walker, who along with Rev. Paula Gile of the Congregational Church of Laconia, UCC, helped start the now widely emulated program, said that Rylee Littlefield, one of Lily's best friends, was among the volunteers helping out Wednesday morning.
After the groceries were bagged, volunteer drivers fanned out across the city to deliver, free of charge, a week's worth of lunch-making groceries to the families of children who qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program when school is in session. The program runs for the 11 weeks that school is not normally in session.
More than 200 volunteers from community organizations take part in the program which over the past two years has delivered more 35,000 lunches to school children in the city.
Organizers estimate that it takes $110 to provide one child with lunch groceries for the summer. There is also a dairy voucher program with vouchers redeemable at Vista Foods for milk, eggs, cheese or yogurt.
Since the Got Lunch! Laconia program started in 2011 it has spread rapidly across the state and there are now nine programs this year, including ones in Meredith and Ashland, and the number is expected to rise to at least 12 next year according to Walker.