Businesses assisting schoolchildren: ‘Very community-minded’

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Melony Hartranft, left, husband, Sean, and daughter Aubri and Mel's Deli in Montoursville were one of several restaurants who provided lunches for students in the Montoursville Area School District during the winter and spring COVID shut-down. The deli provided peanut-butter-sandwiches, fruit, chips, milk or fruit juice boxes, and a hot sandwich, such as a hot dog or bar-b-cue for students to pick up or deliver to their homes five days a week. From mid March through May the deli, with the help from loyal customers, organizations, and the Lyter PTO provided lunches for 20-30 children a day.

When the governor’s orders for schools to shutdown were issued in March because of the pandemic, it caught many students off guard, particularly those who relied on school for a secure source of food.

That’s when several area businesses stepped in to provide meals for any student in local districts until a food program through the USDA could be put in place.

Maseto’s Deli, in the Newberry section of the city was one business that provided food for students,

particularly those in the Williamsport Area School District.

For Lori Lusk, the owner of Maseto’s, the decision to offer students free food came from a desire to help the community in which she lives.

Maseto’s Deli & 6-Pack Owner Lisa Lusk, left, and employees Lindsey Phillips, Sherie Shirn, Kassie Short and Paige McCartney at the restaurant.KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

“Being a small business, I rely on the community to help me grow. Our students are very important and I just wanted to give back to the community,” Lusk said.

Quite a few students responded to the help she offered through her business and in fact she shared many were regulars coming every day to get the food at no cost.

During the shutdown, Lusk operated her business on a take-out-only basis.

Even though she was the one that was offering this gift to the community, Lusk said that she wants to thank the community for supporting her.

“I would just love to thank the community for supporting me through the red phase and the lockdown. It was them and a lot of my regular clients, their encouragement and the prayers and all that. I can’t say thank you enough to the community,” she added.

Giving back to the community was also the impetus for Mike and Abbie Allison, owners of Pizza to Go in Jersey Shore, to get involved with providing meals to students.

According to long-time employee Diane Bardo, it was really important to the Allisons, who have young children of their own, to do something for the kids and the community.

“They’re very community-minded,” Bardo said.

As far as the kids who came to the business for food, Bardo said, “they loved it.”

At Pizza to Go, kids were given a choice of a sub with sides or pizza with sides.

“We were very fortunate. Some of our customers donated drinks. Someone from Frito-Lay brought cases of chips to donate for the lunches. It was very community-oriented,” she said.

Any student in the Montoursville School District could come and grab lunch at Mel’s Deli and Cafe when schools first closed.

“We realized how many kids there were in the district and there weren’t very many places for them to be able to go and get a lunch. All of them were home and some parents were having to still work,” said Aubri Hartranft, whose mother owns Mel’s.

“There was a really big need for it in our area,” she said.

She explained that any kid in the Montoursville area could come and grab lunches, even if they lived in the outlying areas of the district.

“They were so appreciative. We got to know all of the students who came in every day. They were just happy to see us,” she said.

Being the largest district in the area and with the largest percentage of the student population who qualify for free and reduced lunches, Williamsport students benefited the most from all the businesses that opened their doors and their hearts to serve the community.

Dr. Timothy S. Bowers, Williamsport’s superintendent, acknowledged that commitment to community.

“We’re thankful to the community organizations and local businesses that provided free options and access to food for our students. That generosity continued into the fall, particularly with launch of several learning sites for our primary students,” Bowers said.

“As always in times of need, we’re extremely appreciative of our community’s response and commitment to ensure our students’ needs are met in whatever the situation may be,” he added.


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