LACONIA — Laconia Mayor Mike Seymour hailed the success of Laconia's Got Lunch! at an ice cream social Monday afternoon honoring the program's volunteer workers.
Seymour, who was presented with a ''Mayor Mike'' plaque at the event, said he couldn't be more proud, of the efforts of those involved in the program, which since it started three years ago has delivered 61,567 lunches to hundreds of school age children during the summer months. The program has now spread to 14 New Hampshire communities. Saymour called Got Lunch! ''a revolution which started right here in Laconia.''
John Walker, who along with the Rev. Paula Gile, associate pastor of the Congregational Church of Laconia, UCC, helped start the now widely emulated program, said that Seymour's support and encouragement, along with that of former Superintendent of Schools Bob Champlin, were crucial in getting the program up and running and involving the community in supporting it.
Seymour said that it now seems surprising to him that no one else had devised a summer program for feeding school children when nearly 70 percent of the city's school children qualified for free or reduced lunch programs.
Walker said that more than 25,000 meals were distributed by the program to more than 500 children this summer during the weeks when schools are not in session and that more than 70 volunteers helped pack and assemble shopping bags filled with groceries, including fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as delivering them to more than 300 households across the city.
''When we got together to start the program the first person I called was Ed Engler at the Laconia Daily Sun and he said he'd be glad to help us get the word out about it. The first call I got after the story ran was from Mayor Seymour and he's been a strong supporter since that time,'' said Walker.
He said that there are now 14 similar programs in the state and the latest community to start a Got Lunch! program is Gilford, where Tom Francouer has volunteered to lead the effort.
Walker praised Seymour's work as mayor, calling him ''the best small-city mayor in the country,'' and said that his leadership will be missed when his term of office ends in January.
Got Lunch! Laconia program co-founder John Walker presents Mayor Mike Seymour with a plaque honoring his efforts on behalf of the Got Lunch! program. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)