Saugerties High graduate gets grant to fund meals for needy students

Ally Decelle

Ally Decelle, a graduating senior in the Saugerties High School Class of 2019, helped secure a $1200 Youth Opportunities Fund grant to assist the school’s Key Club’s Backpack Program, which sends elementary school students across the district home with meals on weekends.

“It’s a good amount of money,” said Decelle. “I think it fed all 175 of our recipients for a month, which is a lot.”

The Backpack Program was founded in March 2015, and by early 2017 was helping 85 kids from the Lawrence M. Cahill and Mt. Marion elementary school. It has since extended its reach into all four of the Saugerties district’s elementary schools. 

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The program sustains itself on donations, both public and private, as well as through a series of fundraising initiatives, such as ice-skating events at the Kiwanis Ice Arena. Donations have come in from local businesses, educators and staff across the district, and other area residents. 

Seeing a need to add further funding, Decelle began investigating the worldwide Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF), an endowed fund for Key Club International within the Kiwanis International Foundation. The grant is available in part through a portion of Key Club International dues as well as the purchase of G. Harold Martin Fellowships. 

Decelle, the Key Club treasurer as a senior, learned of the grant during a Kiwanis-sponsored trip to the Key Club International Convention in Chicago in April of last year, where she attended a series of workshops on funding service projects. Decelle applied for the grant ahead of a mid-October funding cycle deadline. 

“I worked on spreadsheets [detailing] what a typical week or month would look like, how much food we would buy, how many kids were being served by it,” explained Decelle. Further expansion of the Backpack Program was a part of her pitch. “We had to prove need and what our goals were. Our goals are to open the program to the junior high and senior high and things like that, or to continue in the summer.”

The annual YOF cycle awarded 87 programs a total of $77,462 for the 2018-19 school year, Though Key Club International doesn’t list the number of applications it receives, Missy Greco, a physical education teacher at Saugerties High and Key Club faculty advisor, believed the number was in the hundreds. Greco called Decelle’s work to secure the grant “very welcome.” 

“Her efforts were so heartfelt and thoughtful,” said Greco. “It also fills my heart with gratitude knowing that we will be able to continue this vital program.”

Decelle will head to Loyola University in Maryland in the fall. She hopes to major in speech, language and hearing sciences, with a minor in special education. She wants to establish a Circle K International charter at Loyola.

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