Marlene Maffei was a member of the parent-teacher association at Fremont Elementary School in 2006 when she heard about a fellow mom who started a program at Fritsch Elementary School to provide meals over the weekends for students in need. Maffei even volunteered to fill backpacks with food.
But it wasn’t until a job opening at Food for Thought last year, she realized the program had grown from parent volunteers at one school to a nonprofit organization serving all of the Carson City School District, along with some other schools.
“I really hadn’t heard what had become of it,” she said.
Since taking the job as office manager for Food For Thought in November, she learned she was not alone.
“So many people I run into have never heard of Food for Thought,” she said. “The beautiful thing about Food for Thought and the community partnerships who donate to us, everything we do stays here.”
When Stephanie Gardner, who served as executive director since 2011, left the position as director in June, Maffei took over as interim director. Last week, she was named to the post.
“We are very pleased to announce this appointment,” said Lynette Conrad, board president. “Marlene will bring great leadership and creativity to the program and strengthen community relationships.”
Maffei recently returned to the workforce in recent years after staying home with her children, ages 23, 18, 16 and 12, where she volunteered for several organizations including PTA, Pop Warner Football and Capital Soccer Club.
“I look forward to continuing to serve and partner with the area in this new capacity,” she said. “Food For Thought plays a key roll in providing a resource to help prevent childhood hunger.”
The organization discreetly provides four meals to children over the weekends who may not have food otherwise. Last year, she said, the organization served between 250 and 300 students weekly. The first distribution of this school year will be Friday.
Children are referred into the program by teachers and other school staff.
“They are our eyes and ears,” she said. “I need teachers to be aware. It’s an ongoing process.”
The summer program, which provided free meals to children at Terrace Park, Bridge Church and the Ron Wood Family Resource Center, served 4,082 meals over 54 days.
The program is expanding this year to include Silver State Charter Schools and is looking at ways to better serve Carson and Pioneer high schools.
Maffei said she’s writing grants and looking for other sources of reliable income, in addition to continuing to accept donations from the community.
“I am dedicated to developing sustainability and growth for the organization,” she said. “If we can get the funding, our organization is going to be able to branch out and reach those kids who are really in need. Our doors are always open to volunteers and to businesses that want to donate food or do food drives.”
A week into the new job, she said, she knows she’s in the right place.
“I really am getting paid to do what I love,” she said. “I have always had a passion for children, and being in a position to help prevent such an unfortunate reality in our community is truly a blessing.”