KenCrest Joins Forces with Operation 143 to Combat Child Hunger


Since 2011, KenCrest has partnered with Operation 143 to deliver nonperishable food to children facing food insecurity in Pennsylvania.

By Sydney Kerelo

In Pennsylvania, there are over 1.2 million people—roughly 325,000 children—experiencing food insecurity each year, according to Feeding Pennsylvania. That’s one in eight children struggling with childhood hunger right in our hometowns. But one Pottstown-based nonprofit is fighting against food insecurity by delivering bags of nonperishable items to children in need outside of school.

In 2011, Lisa Heverly saw a need to help Pennsylvania students experiencing childhood hunger by not having sufficient food over the weekends while they were away from school. So, she started her own 501c nonprofit, Operation 143, to help the hundreds of Pennsylvania-based children facing homelessness or food insecurity.

Now, over 13 years later, the organization continues to fight childhood hunger by partnering with local organizations like KenCrest to deliver food bags filled with nonperishable food items, like tuna, fruit cups, SpaghettiOs, granola bars, cereal, etc., enough to feed students from Friday night into Sunday evening to students in Norristown, Pottstown, Pottsgrove, Boyertown, Upper Perk, and Spring-Ford school districts. The organization serves 31 schools and more than 214 students.

“At first, we were called Operation Backpack, but then we changed it to Operation 143 because 143 is the universal number for I Love You, and we thought that fit our message better,” says the Founder and Executive Director, Lisa Heverly. “The students would take the backpack home from school on the weekend and bring it back on Monday. KenCrest played a big part in helping us drop off the backpacks at schools, but we had to figure out another way when COVID-19 happened. So that’s when we started delivering to students’ homes, and we’ve been doing that ever since.”


Initially, the backpacks would each have a different tag with a number so that students wouldn’t be singled out and hanging outside the guidance counselor’s office or in a hallway somewhere off the beaten path.

Now, a group of local volunteers, like KenCrest’s Community Connection Coach, Chris Owens, adults we support, drive around specific areas and make deliveries. Operation 143 partners with numerous local churches and organizations to build community relationships and gather the food needed for each bag. A few of their other partners are the First Presbyterian Church, Morning Star Fellowship, Connection Church, and National AMBUCS.

“Each bag is filled with non-perishable items, and the idea is that the kid would be coming home from school and could put a mac and cheese in the microwave or eat yogurt or shake pudding,” explains Owens. “Something they could eat on their own without assistance from their parents.”

Owens has worked with Operation 143 for over ten years, delivering backpacks to students’ doorsteps in the area. It was his idea to involve a few of the people he supports at KenCrest in his deliveries, including Marisa Good, Chris Rose, Zach Mineo, and Evan McGlone. According to Owens, he brings around two to three people daily. He will first go to Operation 143’s headquarters, fill the van, and pick up the people he supports before beginning the deliveries.


“I feel like it’s exactly what KenCrest is about, one person helping another and being involved within their community,” says Owens. “We’re all helping each other out, and the people I support feel like they can tangibly see that they are helping out.”

All the perishable items Operation 143 distributes come from local food drives at grocery stores like Redner’s and donations from the community. Volunteers will come in on Wednesday evenings to help pack the bags, and then on Thursday and Friday, they will distribute them to the surrounding areas.

Joan Prinzivalli, KenCrest’s Meaningful Day Coordinator, has been working alongside Owens and Heverly to get more of the people KenCrest supports involved.

“I’m the Meaningful Day Coordinator at KenCrest, so I help out with activities for people in our residential homes,” says Prinzivalli. “So, I hope to expand our reach and get more people from the residential homes involved in packing or delivering these bags because it’s such an incredible mission.”