BRADENTON -- Feeding Empty Little Tummies resumed its annual mission Friday to make sure students in Bradenton have enough to eat on weekends.
FELT was founded five years ago by the late Jane Evers, wife of former Mayor Bill Evers, when school nurses began reporting students were showing up Mondays with stomachaches because they had not eaten in two days. For too many children, the only meals they receive are at school.
FELT last year provided more than 57,000 meals and filled almost 5,000 backpacks for children in need each week.
The nonprofit agency is supported by volunteers and
relies on community generosity to fulfill its mission.
"We rely on monetary and food donations to help continue this program," said President William Moore. "It takes between $12 and $15 per child per week to do this."
FELT is one of many organizations on the support list of Bradenton's West Coast Women's Club, a spinoff organization of the century-old Bradenton Women's Club. Jane Evers also was one of its founding mothers. Cofounding mother Clara Parker said the organization saw a great need in Manatee County for children but also engages other charitable organizations such as Cup of Joe, which provides fresh coffee to troops in war zones, supports grandparents raising grandchildren and the Angel Tree Festival.
FELT was one of the first agencies West Coast Women's Club supported. Member Joan Dowling presented Kim Bailey, FELT director of development, with a check for $500 on Friday to help boost their efforts.
"Today is important because we know we are contributing to hungry children," said Parker. "So many go without food and our contributions help feed them not only during the school week, but on weekends."
While they take fundraising seriously, Dowling said there's no harm in having a little fun doing it. The organization's primary fundraiser is a dance held the second Saturday every month at Blake Medical Center's Health To You building at 6670 Cortez Road W.
The West Coast Women's Club has about 25 members. Parker said the small organization is able to help the community a lot despite but would love to grow in order to expand its charitable efforts.
For information on the organization, go to gfwcwestcoastwomansclub.com.
For information on FELT or how to donate or volunteer, call 941-896-7870 or go to felt.inc.org.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.