Benny, left, and Danny Arends have gathered and distributed over 10,000 activities and toys to local children and hospitals by doing fundraisers and collection drives. Submitted photo
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Arends brothers offering free spaghetti dinner for community

by Elane Moonier ~ Features Editor

Two youngsters from Jackson are planning on serving a free spaghetti dinner for anyone in the community on Dec. 3 at New McKendree United Methodist Church South Campus.

Benny Arends, age 8, and his brother, Danny, age 5, came up with the idea to offer the free meal as a service project for an organization they started two years ago called Kids 4 Kids of SEMO.  

Giving Tuesday, Dec. 3, was chosen for the day of the meal, as this is a way for the boys to give to the community, according to their mother, Melinda.

“The boys wanted to make a difference,” she noted. “They know there are people in the community who are hungry or food insecure or a little bit lonely at this time of year. They thought this would be a good way to show love by feeding the people.”

The meal will be served from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the boys have enlisted their friends, other students and families to help with preparing and serving the dinner.

Benny said they will have spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread, salad and a really yummy dessert.

The kids will greet those who come to eat and will serve them and visit with them to get to know them. The meal is free, but donations will be accepted, and all money donated will be given to the Jackson R-2 Power Pack Program which provides food and snacks for kids to take home on the weekends when they might otherwise not have access to nutritious foods.

Benny’s experience with organized giving actually began several years ago just before his sixth birthday when he became concerned that children who had to stay in hospitals would be bored. He set out on a mission to provide arts, crafts and toy activities that could be given to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

On his birthday, Benny asked his friends and family to donate to this cause instead of giving him gifts. He made a collection site and made live videos on Facebook on the Web site Kids 4 Kids of SEMO to get others excited about this. In September 2017, Benny and his family delivered over 1,000 items to St. Jude.

In October, Benny’s younger brother, Danny, joined in and the projects kept growing to include other hospitals as well as area children facing chronic illnesses, hospitalizations and other injuries. The boys did fundraisers selling t-shirts, set up lemonade stands and collection drives.

In 2018, they gave 1,000 items to three different hospitals. In 2019, Benny and Danny set their goal of giving 5,000 items to 5 different hospitals in addition to private giving. To date, the boys have distributed nearly 10,000 activites and toys to local children and hospitals.

Melinda said when the boys came up with the idea of serving a free meal to 400 people, it was very intimidating to her, but she was eager to support them.

“If my kids come up with an idea they want to serve someone else, we are going to do it, even though we have never done anything like this before” she said.

Spaghetti is one of Benny’s favorite meals, and they decided this would be easier to prepare and serve. While Benny originally said he wanted to serve 400, now he has upped that to 500.

“This is Giving Tuesday,” Melinda said. “There couldn’t be a better time than this to give back to the community.”

Benny is a second grader at South Elementary School, and Danny is in kindergarten there. Their two-year-old brother, Tommy, is going to be helping out also. You can see the boys in live videos on the website Kids 4 Kids of SEMO.
 
 

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