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Band leaves 'Blessings' for Wileman


School also receives $500 Mobil grant



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Wileman Elementary School Principal Deborah Maki (right) accepts a $500 grant check from Hema Mehta, manager of the Evergreen Mobil Mart in Delavan. (click for larger version)
December 07, 2011 | 07:33 AM
DELAVAN — Pearl Jam performed at Alpine Valley Music Theater at East Troy on Sept. 3 and 4, and left behind more than some fading chords and a messy field.

Funds raised at that summertime concert found their way to Wileman Elementary School, Delavan.

The school recently received a grant of $50,000 from the alternative rock band and the nonprofit Blessings in a Backpack organization to buy food for children in need.

In addition to that, the school also received a $500 grant from Exxon Mobil.

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"We were overwhelmed to be selected for this grant," Wileman Principal Deborah Maki said. "It fills such a need in our school and in our community. We are very thankful ... to have a connection with this organization and Pearl Jam.

"We were selected because someone at Live Nation had connections to Blessings in a Backpack," Maki said.

"It's nice to be remembered by a band that comes to our county to entertain," she said.

Live Nation owns Alpine Valley.

Blessings in a Backpack is a Louisville, Ky., program that distributes backpacks filled with enough nonperishable food for the weekend (six meals) to "at-risk" students who are participants in the government subsidized free or reduced fee hot lunch program.

Wileman Elementary, 1001 Geneva St. Delavan, is a modern looking school across the street from a middle-class looking residential neighborhood.

Looks can be deceiving.

Of Wileman's 340 students in grades 4-year-old kindergarten through fifth grade, 75 percent are on free and reduced lunches, Maki said.

Maki said the school generally draws from the east and central parts of the city.

"We have good families," said Maki. But average incomes are low.

The goal of the Blessings in a Backpack program is to keep students from going hungry on the weekends and remove barriers to academic success.

Starting in January, every Friday, food will be distributed to children who are in the free and reduced lunch programs, she said.

In partnership with Stinebrink's Piggly Wiggly in Delavan, Wileman Elementary School staff will send eligible students home each Friday with a small bag full of food, including such items as oatmeal, canned meals and vegetables, fruit snacks, granola bars and juice boxes.

"It's really just enough to make sure our kids can make it through the weekend with several meals," Maki said.

"It's a great program. There really is a need for it here in Delavan and it's growing."

Instead of backpacks, "we're going to use grocery bags," Maki said, adding that most children attending Wileman have backpacks. And all children in need get one, even if more than one child are from the same family, Maki said.

The grant is good for three years.

According to the Blessings in a Backpack website, about $80 will provide weekend meals for one student for an entire school year.

Families must apply to be a part of the Backpack program, Maki said.

Meanwhile, Exxon-Mobil's $500 grant is to promote math and science, said Maki.

She said the school is still deciding how to use the money.

The grant this year comes from Evergreen Mobil 746 E. Geneva St., Delavan, owned by the Jim and Hema Mehta family.

The grant is part of the ExxonMobil Educational Alliance Program, which encourages ExxonMobil retailers to participate in the program and invest in the future of communities where they are located.

Maki said that the Mehtas' children attended the school.

She said the school applies for the grants every year.

Mehta worked with ExxonMobil corporate management staff and Delavan-Darien school officials to secure the grant, one of 2,400 available to schools nationwide.

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