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Positive messages to be shared for CPS summer lunch program

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Members of the Columbus community have the chance to make an impact on local youth during Columbus Public Schools’ summer lunch program this year.

Any individual, group or organization can write positive, inspirational messages on paper towels, which will be given to kids as napkins. The CPS summer lunch program is starting on Tuesday.

At Columbus High School, Columbus Middle School and Centennial Elementary School, lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is no cost for children 0-18 who are residents of Columbus. Adult meals are $4. The program ends June 27.

According to CPS Marketing and Foundation Director Nicole Anderson, staff began writing inspirational messages on napkins following a presentation held last week. Billy Ivey spoke during the school district’s employee recognition ceremony about his movement, Napkinisms, in which positive, funny and/or inspirational messages to children.

“His whole presentation revolved around his belief that it's not what you write, it's that you're writing and words matter. With a simple note, you can create joy, you can create a smile and can make someone's day,” Anderson said.

Ivey, who resides in Birmingham, Alabama, said Napkinism started to take root when he began leaving notes for his kids in their lunchboxes. That in itself is common, he noted, but he became virtual after he shared photos of the notes on social media and people started sharing them.

Ivey said he was only 15-years-old when his father died from Lou Gehrig's disease, which is also known as ALS. Up until then, his father had been very engaged and shared simple things with him that have made a big difference in his life, he added.

“I've learned over the past few years how easy it is to encourage other people if you consistently meet those opportunities with love, if you consistently meet those opportunities and don't shy away from those opportunities but really lean in to take advantage of those warmhearted impulses,” Ivey said.

Ivey now shares his story with others, including the staff at Columbus Public Schools.

“The lunch program, which reaches kids of not only Columbus Public but any youth in the community, is a great way to help promote joy, love and smiles during the summer when we don't get to see the kids as often,” Anderson said. “We thought it was a great way not only for our staff to still stay connected with kids in the community but what a great opportunity potentially for our entire community to get involved.”

As of a May 26 press release, more than 350 messages on napkins have been written. The goal is to reach 2,000.

Anderson said she has the supplies available and can work with anyone interested to give them paper towels and Sharpies. Anderson can be contacted at 402-563-7000 or andersonn@discoverers.org.

“With everything that's going on in our world, positive and negative every day, this is a great way to show support of youth in the community and spread joy,” Anderson said, noting that writing a simple note to help spread smiles to others is heartwarming work.

“That's the biggest thing that anyone in our community would get from it, is knowing that they did something to share to give a smile to another person.”

Ivey noted his surprise in his story creating such a spark in Columbus.

“The fact that Columbus (Public Schools) is going to get to sort of take that baton and keep running with it and share with other people, it's fascinating to me and it's humbling to me that the very simple idea can … change people's lives,” he said.

Hannah Schrodt is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at hannah.schrodt@lee.net.

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