After March 11, the last day Fort Calhoun Community Schools students attended classes in person before school's statewide closed due to COVID-19, the school district started a lunch program and food bank to keep food in kids stomachs.
On Mondays and Thursdays, students and their families could drive up to the high school and the Forgot Store in Ponca Hills to receive three lunch and breakfast meals. On Fridays, FCCS hosted a food pantry from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the high school.
Friday was the last day for the food pantry, which was also supported by St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and many individual donations.
As he did for many weeks before in his blue pickup, nicknamed "big blue," retiring Supt. Don Johnson personally delivered meals to about eight families in Omaha and around Fort Calhoun who couldn't come to the pantry themselves.
"In Omaha, the ones mostly are because mom and dad are working during the day," Johnson said, quickly placing recognition on the community involvement which he said is what made the food pantry a success.
"I tell you what, that's the story," he said. "This community has just continuously pumped food in here and money."
Last Tuesday, Johnson, who's retirement begins July 1, said he looked at how much food was available for Friday's food pantry, and he thought he'd have to buy "quite a bit" of groceries. Throughout the food pantry's run, Johnson would shop for food items needed on Thursdays.
"Honestly, we had over $3,500 worth of cash given to us to buy stuff," Johnson said of the last food pantry Friday. "Then by Thursday morning, we just had boxes of food. People that are so generous."
St. John's donated fish, and an anonymous donor provided chicken.
"Not once did we ask and not get just a bunch," Johnson said of the food pantry's run.
Before he headed out to deliver a full pickup-bed full of food, Johnson called families to check how they were doing.
"I make calls in the morning to families that we know that could be struggling a bit," he said. "It takes a lot to ask for help, and our ladies here — big shout out to the ladies that I have out here because they make (the food pantry), they're so humble."
Johnson said the school received a note from one family about how kind everyone helping with the food pantry was.
"The note specifically speaks about feeling like they were treated with a tremendous amount of respect and caring," he said. "The ladies that are volunteering, they don't get paid for this. These are teachers coming up and paras coming up on their time, and now it's the summer and they're still doing it."
On the last day of the food pantry, Johnson said they used all of the money donated they had left to buy some extra food items before loading up what was left in the pantry.
"Everything we had in there, we loaded," he said. "It's just another community things where people come out and help others. It's pretty awesome."