BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Many students in our community get free breakfast and lunches at school. But, what happens when those little ones go home on Fridays? Employees at one Biloxi casino pitched-in Tuesday to make sure some needy children don't go hungry on the weekends.
Hands that are used to dealing cards and counting cash started grabbing canned goods, crackers, and fruit cups. About 40 Beau Rivage employees moved swiftly through the line, filling 1,000 plastic bags with non-perishable food items.
"We just formed an assembly line and everybody just came together and worked together as a team," said Beau Rivage Count Room Clerk Kathi Rice. "The Beau always comes together to support the community and that's a wonderful thing."
The employees have supported the Bay Area Food Bank's Backpack Program for the last three years. The $5,000 they contributed to the program this year went toward purchasing the food.
"They know that they're giving their money through their paycheck or through fund raisers, and now they're actually hands-on with where all the funds are going, and that is supporting such a great cause to make sure that children are being fed," said Beau Rivage Executive Assistant LaWanda Jones.
The bags will be distributed to 40 needy children at two schools throughout the school year: River Oaks Elementary in Harrison County and Hancock North Central Elementary. Every Friday, teachers will discreetly place the bags in those children's backpacks to take home.
Each bag contains supplemental meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with snacks for two days. The meals are a bit healthier than before, and easier for children to prepare and eat.
"It's great! It is truly awesome to see, and this program depends on these types of people and these organizations to keep it running. The Beau Rivage actually reached out to us and said, 'Hey, this is something we want to do. Our employees love this program,'" said Bay Area Food Bank Child Nutrition Coordinator Cecilia Snyder.
It's a program that's a win-win for both the children and the generous volunteers.
"Oh, it's wonderful to know that the children are going to have food for the weekend that don't normally have food. So it's just wonderful to be able to help," said Rice.
"Mississippi actually has some of the highest childhood hunger insecurity rates in the nation. This program is 100-percent sponsored by personal, private, corporate donations. Without it, we wouldn't be sending any bags right now," said Snyder.
It took the employees only two hours to fill all 1,000 bags with food. The program is part of M-PACT week, in which all properties of MGM Resorts will do something every day this week to make a difference in their communities.