'This is what we do,' educator says
Maribeth Promenschenkel stopped her school bus Monday at an empty corner at Boys and Madison streets in Streator.
She honked five times, then paused.
Before she accelerated to make a turn, children ranging from elementary to junior high school ages started running toward the bus.
"Here they come!" said Streator High School teacher Rob Tyne, catching them in his sight. "Bless them."
Promenschenkel and Tyne manned one of six buses delivering free sack lunches to any child younger than 18 in Streator. The delivery is intended to feed children each day school is closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The bus stopped at regular school routes in the neighborhood just north of the high school.
At this particular stop, Tyne stepped out of the bus to meet seven children, asking them a key question: "Chocolate or white milk?"
No matter what school the children attended, or if they were old enough to attend yet, each child was given a sack lunch with a ham or turkey sandwich, two cups of fruit, two fruit juices, celery sticks, chocolate doughnuts and milk — enough for breakfast the next morning.
After taking tally of how many lunches were distributed, Tyne would take his seat at the front of the bus, hanging onto the crate that held the sack lunches with his left hand as Promenschenkel rolled down the street.
At each stop, she honked the horn at least five times. Sometimes children showed up, other times it was on to the next stop.
One woman stood in front of her house on Stanton Street to flag down the bus. They stopped, and Tyne hopped out to deliver.
He asked many of the children or parents as he passed out the lunches: "Do you know any other children on the block?" At one stop, Tyne was alerted to three children living across the street; he knocked on their door and passed out three more sack lunches.
On another occasion, Tyne stopped the mail carrier to ask him if he knew of any children living on Lowden Street. The mailman pointed out a red house where two preschoolers lived. Tyne knocked on the door and success, two more deliveries.
"He said he'll be out tomorrow, too," Tyne said.
Halfway through their route, Tyne and Promenschenkel had delivered 42 lunches and had to stop back at the high school to reload their stock.
"This is what we do," Tyne, a social studies teacher, said about educators. He checked his phone periodically to keep tabs on students asking questions about the closure and the school's first e-learning day. He said he was proud the Streator school community was prepared for the announced school closures.
At the high school at 202 W. Lincoln Ave., curbside pickup took place between 11 a.m. and noon, as it will each weekday. Streator High Principal Amy Jo Mascal said they handed out nearly three dozen sack lunches about 20 minutes into the pick up. Lunches also were handed out at Northlawn Junior High School, 202 E. First St.
"We saw a lot of our walkers come through," Mascal said.
In total, 457 lunches were handed out Monday between deliveries and pick ups, after 500 sack lunches were packed to start the day, according to Streator High Superintendent Matt Seaton.
Bus delivery routes weaved through several Streator neighborhoods, as well as made stops in Ransom, Kangley and near Grand Ridge.
Promenschenkel was touched by the experience — pointing out several houses she knew from her routes that housed children, leading to successful lunch deliveries.
"I really enjoyed doing it," she said. "It made me feel good inside."
To receive a delivery:
Stop by Streator High School or Northlawn Junior High School between 11 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday during school closures to pick up a sack lunch, or stand outside your child's bus stop. Children younger than 18 will receive a lunch/breakfast. To find out where buses stop, call 815-672-0545.