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Kids Café to open in Boys, Girls Club

The region's first Kids Café is opening this month in the Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes.

A grand opening celebration is scheduled for Dec. 7.

After applying for a grant from ConAgra Foods for several years and being turned down because of low numbers at the club, Director Pat Petermann said they decided to try applying again.

"Our numbers weren't high. We weren't feeding many kids in the evening," he said. "But (the numbers) went up drastically in the last 12 months."

Now feeding around 40 kids a night, the club was awarded the $35,000 grant to be paid out over a three-year period.

The grant is in partnership with North Country Food Bank, ConAgra Foods Feeding Children Better Foundation and America's Second Harvest -- The Nation's Food Bank Network.

Kids Café is a program of America's Second Harvest, sponsored nationally by ConAgra Foods, and operated locally by North Country Food Bank.

Kids Café operates 1,600 sites in 42 states. North Country Food Bank serves 21 counties in Minnesota, distributing almost 2 million pounds of food annually.

The Detroit Lakes club received $20,000 this year to update kitchen equipment, purchase food and hire staff. For equipment, they purchased a steam table, tray holder, two-door freezer and $2,000 worth of bowls, plates and utensils.

Next year, they will receive $10,000 for food, staff and a new stove.

The following year, the club will receive $5,000 to sustain the program and buy food.

After the grant is complete, the club is expected to keep the café going on its own and not reapply for a second grant from ConAgra.

"They help you get started," Petermann said, "and then expect you to maintain on your own."

Besides providing financially for the club, the grant will help provide more opportunities for the kids to help in the preparation of food and the ability to host more community functions, like fund-raisers.

It will also provide for more nutrition education programs, and to "utilize the kitchen more," Petermann said.

He said United Way came out with a list of top needs for Becker County. Feeding kids and pre-school and daycare are the top two.

"We do both," Petermann said.

Although the club has always been doing those things, he said, the community is now realizing to what degree of success.

In 2005, the club spent $8,100 on food. As of October of 2006, the club had already spent $15,000 on food alone, showing the growing number of kids utilizing the club.

Going hand-in-hand with the Kids Café grant, Petermann said the Detroit Lakes Noon Rotary has donated $4,500 for the last three years to help with feeding the kids at the club.

During the Dec. 7 grand opening of the café, Rep. Paul Marquart will be the featured guest speaker, along with Vice Mayor Matt Brenk, the Boys and Girls Club president and the director of the America's Second Harvest, the country's largest charitable hunger-relief organization.

"We're looking forward to Marquart (speaking). He's been a big supporter of the club," Petermann said.

Kids from the club will also entertain with some songs, and they will help greet guests at the door and serve food.

During the festivities, 75 backpacks will be donated through the grant program to be distributed to the kids at the club as well.

Following the ham dinner, people are welcome to tour the facility.

Although the event is by invitation (to get a head count for food preparation), Petermann said he encourages the public to come check out the club and how it has grown anytime.