A long-time friendship is making it possible for students in the Vandalia School District – and many others in the area – to receive filtered water in pouches.
Dana Bevin, who joined the school district staff this school year as assistant principal at Vandalia Elementary School and new special education coordinator, was contacted by Jeff Garde, a friend since high school, about getting those pouches.
Garde, a project territory manager for Kraft Heinz, had heard that the company’s Granite City location was filling pouches normally used for Capri Sun with filtered water and giving them out to schools.
“He knew that I was at a new job here (in Vandalia), and I talked about our community and other things here, and he (asked me) to see if our district would be interested (in getting some of the pouches),” Bevin said.
Garde recently had 200,000 of the pouches delivered to Jefferson Primary School, with Kraft Heinz paying for the shipping.
Some of the pouches are going to nursing stations and also to individual classrooms in the district, which has its water fountains turned off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes the elementary school, junior high, high school and alternative education.
“We sent them to blessing boxes in towns and have donated some to other local school districts,” Bevin said.
“Some are also going to the local backpack program, Nourishing Greatness, and I just this morning made a contact about a food pantry in Effingham,” she said, adding that some of the water is going to the Greenville School District for its backpack program.
Garde said that Kraft Heinz contacted local schools to see what the company could do to help.
“We were thinking food,” he said, “but the school explained that they had to turn their water fountains off, due to COVID, causing students to bring their own water or the school having to purchase it.
“We manufacture Capri Suns, so the idea came up to fill the pouches with filtered water instead of juice in order to keep students hydrated,” Garde said.
“The reasoning behind it was, so students could get a healthy drink without sugar or calories, so parents would not have to remember to pack one more thing, and the schools would not have to spend thousands of dollars on bottled water,” he said.
“It’s just about giving back to our local communities during the pandemic,” Garde said.
As of Monday, Kraft Heinz had given out 2.6 million pouches to students in grades K-12 in Granite City, Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Litchfield, Bethalto, Alton, Troy, Collinsville, Vandalia and Staunton.
Bevin estimates the donation to the Vandalia district, and the other sites receiving pouches from Vandalia, at about $50,000.
“And Kraft Heinz also paid to have the pouches shipped here,” she said.
“We want to make sure that we support our community and our kiddos,” Bevin said, “and we want to be able to take the gifts we’ve been given and be able to bless other people with it. We don’t want to be hoarders.”
She said the donation of the water pouches shows what kind of person Garde is.
“He’s been a great friend for many years and just a great, great guy,” she said.