Summer is the season of giving for many businesses and organizations that lend a helping hand to the Cities In Schools summer program.

Each day, representatives and groups of the entities volunteer to serve lunch for the hundreds of kids. The tradition is as old as the summer camp itself, and continues to rise in popularity.

“Each year, we look at the organizations that enjoyed serving the year before, and those we have not reached out to,” says Sara Kerley, executive director for CIS. “Ironically, we had businesses reach out to us this year. Last year, we had 10 businesses and groups, and this year we are at 15.”

Each entity’s commitment can last from a day to a week. Because of demand, CIS has brought in businesses and groups to also serve snacks. Kerley said there are two reasons for bringing in servers.

“There are two thoughts. One is bringing in the community and letting them see what we do,” she says. “We are also pushing to find groups, particularly with men because a lot of our kids don’t have men in their life and they can sit down and visit with them.

“It has been really impactful because of the leaders of the community are taking time out of their day, visiting with them, and the kids note it. The volunteers can show the kids they have value, they have worth, and the kids love them.”

Kerley says she has received many compliments about the kids, including one that has stuck in her head.

“The best compliment was how polite the kids are,” she says.

Kerley provided the example of the Catholic Church of St. Mary’s Men’s Group that came in recently.

“They came in, sat down and had lunch,” she said. “The volunteers hear thank you, and probably one of the best things we get is thank you for what we do.”