Putt some help VISTO's way

Jan. 31—Cooke County 4-H Clubs have gone all-out on collecting food and raising funds for VISTO.

For the past few years, 4-H has collected donations for VISTO at the start of the year as part of the Super Bowl of Caring. This national drive encourages people to donate to their local food pantries amidst the hype for the NFL Super Bowl.

"The main purpose is to collect individually packaged food items for the Backpack Buddy program ... that sends weekend food home with eligible children in our community to kind of tide theme over," said Janice Williams, one of the 4-H sponsors. "Sometimes on the weekends, the cupboards are bare, and they need things that they can prepare for themselves and not have to cook on a stove."

One new project this year is a putt-putt challenge the group is hosting, led by Williams' daughter, Maddie.

"We have always helped with the Backpack Buddy Program; we deliver them every other week to one of the Gainesville elementary schools," said Maddie. "The idea actually came from my sister's work. They did a food drive last year and they did something like this, so we just thought it was a way to take it up a level and and have a little better outcome."

The hole was set up in the 35 and Liberty Outlet Mall food court on Saturday using the donations the 4-H clubs across Cooke County had collected already. On Monday and Tuesday, people can come out and play the hole in exchange for a donation to VISTO's Backpack Buddy Program.

"The buy-in is some food, bring whatever, two things, 10 things, whatever they can do," said Williams. "They play the hole and we have a few prizes that local merchants have donated to hand out."

"It's another way just to build awareness of the entire program and get more people involved," said Phyllis Griffin, the Cooke County 4-H Extension Agent.

People wanting to play are encouraged to schedule a tee time so that people don't have to wait too long to play. Times can be scheduled by contacting Williams at 940-634-0928.

All donations from 4-H and the mini golf hole, as well as some donations from partners like Gainesville ISD will be brought to VISTO on "Game Day" Wednesday morning.

"I don't know the exact number, but there's over 800 children that receive food each weekend," said Griffin. "Our kids, every other week, they pick up the food at the warehouse and then deliver it over to Edison, so they see the full circle. They donate and then they're actually toured the warehouse and the pantry, so they kind of know what happens to the food; it's more than just donating some peanut butter."

Parents have also found ways to get their kids more involved and help them understand how all of this works even down to buying the food on a budget.

"I told the boys if they wanted to use some of their allowance money, then me and my husband would match whatever they wanted to give," said Valley View's Leslie Scoggin, who has two sons in 4-H. "They each decided that they wanted to give $25 each so we went to Sam's Club and we set their calculators on their cell phones and we let them pick items that were on the list of things we needed."

Scoggin also mentioned that for her sons, Xander and Zane, $25 each was almost all of their allowance money for the last two weeks.

"We bought some school food items, like granola bars, Mac and cheese, and gummies and stuff, like single pack foods," said Xander. "We were trying to find as much food as we can with a lot of packs and stuff, but we also wanted it to be a little bit cheaper."