New Canaan moms Shawnee Knight and Tina Kramer started the Filling in the Blanks charity in 2013. “Filling in the Blanks is a nonprofit that fights childhood hunger by providing children in need with meals on the weekends. In the Fall we will be providing weekend meals to 2,000 children at 29 schools throughout Fairfield county,” says Tina. We spoke to these remarkable women about their important cause, living in New Canaan and how we can all help fight childhood hunger in our community.
Can you please share your family details and where you live?
Shawnee: My husband Douglas and I moved here with our two sons Andrew & Matthew Knight about 15 years ago from Denver, Colorado. We live with our two dogs on the edge of New Canaan close to Pound Ridge.
Tina: I have resided in New Canaan CT for 20 years with my husband and three kids—13 year old girl, and two boys 15 and 23 years old. We live farther out of town by Wilton.
Why did you choose New Canaan?
Shawnee: My husband and I are both originally from Oregon, however we both have lived many places, including Los Angeles, New York and Hawaii. One of the things that appealed to us most as a family, was the great schools and picturesque town feel of New Canaan.
Tina: We had been living in Manhattan and received a listing for a house in New Canaan. We took a ride to CT and fell in love immediately. The ability to have a backyard and place for the kids and dogs to run around, the quintessential downtown area and the small town feel just drew us in.
Shawnee: Filling in the Blanks was started when two friends got together and wanted to find an impactful way to spend our time while giving back with our children. Finding a way to help children was something that our kids could relate to and participate in as well. It was something that really resonated to us both. We each grew up in single parent households on a tight budget and felt a responsibility and desire to pay it forward.
What are you most proud of in terms of the charity so far?
Shawnee: There are so many things we have been able to accomplish with Filling in the Blanks, but I think the biggest one is actually the hundreds of volunteers who give their time to make FITB a success! Their selfless dedication has helped us grow a little operation with 50 kids to giving nutritious weekend food kits to 2000 children every week.
Amazing! What is most surprising to people about childhood hunger in this area?
Shawnee: I think people are most surprised by the number of children that are food insecure in our area. Connecticut is one of the wealthiest stated yet there are thousands of kids that go hungry over the weekends.
Tina: People are shocked at the large number of children in our own communities that are in need. 1 in 6 children live in food insecure homes. That equates to approximately 30,000 children in Fairfield County alone.
Shawnee: We are always looking for volunteers and community advocates! No gesture is too small. We have had kids do events at their birthday parties, people do Facebook fundraisers, corporations sponsor a school, and people from all walks of life help pack bags, attend our events or create fundraising challenges.
Tina: Our website lists the public food packing events where anyone aged 7 and up can attend. The packing events allow, even our youngest volunteers, to understand that they are helping their peers who they might be playing sports with on the weekend or sitting right next to them at school. To find out more info on packing events please visit https://www.fillingintheblanks.org/volunteer.
We love supporting local businesses. Can you please share your favorite places to:
Have a date night:
Tina: Sitting at the Chefs Table at Elm
Shawnee: Mitchells in Westport and J.Crew
Tina: Mitchells of Westport & Togs
Shawnee: Noelle – Laura
Tina: Shawnee introduced me to Laura at Noelle; she’s the best. Jason and Jackie are wonderful for a great cut and blow dry.
Any hidden treasures or other favorites you want to share?