GROTON — Imagine it: You’re a kid, whiling away the hours as school is closed. Not much to see out the window.
The bus comes by, bringing lunch, as many school districts are doing. Who drops it off?
A giant turkey. A superhero. A butterfly with a beard.
Chuck Hendrickson Jr. of Groton has always liked dressing up for his students during the holidays. Now, the teacher’s aide dons a different costume each day as he helps deliver meals for elementary school students in the Groton Central School District.
About the coolers
Many school districts have set up drop-off points to make sure kids get a nutritious lunch each day. But Groton, McGraw and Cincinnatus schools are delivering those meals door to door.
Families put out a container or cooler at the end of the driveway in those communities for the drivers to fill.
However, Cortland County Public Health Director Catherine Feuerherm said she’s heard reports that people are taking coolers — something the three district superintendents nor Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms can verify.
“A cooler on the side of the road means a meal for a child that day,” Feuerherm said. “Children certainly shouldn’t be without food.”
“It really brings a smile to the kids and adults,” Hendrickson said.
Since the district began delivering meals to students’ homes last week in response to school closings from the coronavirus pandemic, Hendrickson, who is also with a before- and after-school program, has worn a different get-up each day to bring a little cheer to children.
The costumes started simple with a chicken and then a turkey before getting creative and making a new superhero, Electro, including a cape and a lightning bolt headband.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “The parents are bringing the kids to the window” when he drops off the food.
“I think it’s a really nice way to lighten up a situation, especially for the youngsters who are used to seeing their friends every day,” said Margo Martin, superintendent of Groton Central School District. “I think he brings a little good will and cheer when he drops meals off.”
Martin said the idea has been catching on as other aides who help deliver food have also been dressing up and sharing pictures on social media.
Hendrickson’s costumes bring a little joy at a time when parents are stressed with working at home while trying to keep their children entertained, she said.
It’s even brighter for families where a parent has been laid off.
“Kids aren’t deaf and blind and can see if their parents are worried,” Hendrickson said.
Starting Thursday, he left hints on his Facebook page for what his next costume will be when he returns to helping deliver food on Monday.
“I want to give kids something to look forward to each day until they look forward to going back to school,” he said.