by Dave Warner

The City of Little Falls has decided to cancel the summer parks and pool programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Mayor Mark Blask, “these are not fun decisions to make, but at the end of the day, I am convinced they are the right calls.”

Both programs had more than 4,800 people participate in them last year, the vast majority being children. “It would be unsafe and irresponsible to put the children and workers in that situation in just over four weeks,” he said.

Blask says that he understands and appreciates everyone’s point of view, but that the next few weeks will be critical as far as being allowed to get to the next phase of re-openings. “Our region began the re-opening process last Friday. That, combined with the great weather on tap, should not produce some false sense of ‘we are out of the woods’.”

The mayor went on to say that he wanted to remind people to continue to wear masks when appropriate and maintain social distancing protocols.

One of the unintended consequences of the cancellation of the programs is the loss of lunches provided to the children participating.

According to Tony DeLuca, executive director of the YMCA, the programs fed anywhere from 50-60 children during lunchtime, depending on the park attendance. “We had a captive group as they showed up for the daily park program.”

“At 11 am, the attendants would go to the school cafeteria and prepare the lunch with products that the Y provided. A sandwich, beverage, and fruit, and then the children would come over to the cafeteria and have lunch,” he said.

DeLuca said that the parks program served a real need, Monday through Friday for seven weeks and that those children really needed that service and the lunch. “If we don’t have the parks program, then the kids are going to stay home.”

He also wanted to make sure that people knew that the Food Pantry would still be able to serve those families. “They can come over to the Food Pantry if there is a food insecurity issue and be served there. We’re not going to make lunch for them there, but we’re going to give them those supplies to build a lunch at home.”

DeLuca, and Jordyan Mueller, with the Little Falls Volunteer Corps, are trying to find a way to serve those families and children that are affected by this loss of a daily meal and that might not be able to make it over to the Food Pantry.

Mueller stated, “The pandemic has forced many communities to make tough decisions. But Little Falls has dedicated and creative people willing to do what it takes to help each other wherever possible. Through partnerships with organizations and individuals, I think we can safely and efficiently provide summer meals for these kids that are in need.”

She went on to say that they may not be able to solve this problem for every family, but that there is enough capacity locally, to do the outreach to make it happen for those most at risk.

“We can be creative and develop a fleet of delivery drivers, or have a group of people who can do food prep. If we set the target and the expectations properly, we can show success and make sure kids still have access to food this summer,” she said.

The Little Falls Volunteer Corps and the Little Falls YMCA would like any organizations or individuals that are interested in helping support this summer meal effort to contact them via Facebook or email LFVolunteerCorps@gmail.com

Individuals can also fill out the Little Falls Volunteer Corps form here and indicate on the form that you want to help with the summer meal effort.