Church members packing snacks, giving back

by Christina Ritchie Rogers

Christina Ritchie Rogers/MIW photo Dianne Godley (right) holds open a backpack while Sandy Elliott (left) adds the snacks Thursday, Oct. 21 at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church. The backpacks, each with two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snacks, will be delivered to Oakdale Elementary Friday for students to take home over the weekend. Also pictured in back, from left to right, are Janie Turner, Jane Gaetano and Peggy Green. Read more on page 20.

Eight members of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church gathered Thursday, Oct. 21 to stuff backpacks with food for Oakdale Elementary students.

For the last three weeks, the church, one of Oakdale’s community partners, has worked with the school to provide snacks and meals for students who need them. Church missions chairwoman Sherri Brown reached out to the school with the idea for Backpack Buddies, an effort that provides students on Friday with enough breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack food to get through the weekend.

“Who can resist helping a child?” Brown said. She heard that some students were showing up to school on Mondays complaining of headaches and stomachaches, and knows that sometimes students do not get regular meals over the weekends.

“We have a lot of McKinney Vento students,” Pat Kittrell, Oakdale Elementary’s Family Advocate said, referring to students who are homeless or do not have stable housing situations.  And, she said, some students have stable housing but their parents may not have stable jobs or steady income right now, so food becomes an issue.

Kittrell and her colleagues in school counseling reached out to twelve families they felt could benefit from Backpack Buddies, and all twelve gladly accepted the offer.

The students are also glad to participate, Brown said, because they want to contribute to their families.

“They know their home situation,” Brown said. “If they can bring something home, they feel that they’re helping.”

Church members fill the backpacks – chosen carefully to look like regular school bookbags – and drop them off at the school on Thursdays. The students then pick them up Fridays and return the empty bags Mondays.

“It instills a sense of responsibility,” Kittrell said, because the students need to remember to bring the backpacks back on Monday so they can be filled again for Friday.

“The kids are very excited about it,” Kittrell said. They return the bags to her room on Mondays, and often show up smiling. “They seem to be coming to school a little happier,” Kittrell said.

Want to help?

Donate time: Backpack Buddies needs volunteers to pack and deliver the backpacks weekly. Packs are stuffed on Thursdays and delivered to the school so that students may pick them up on Fridays for the weekend.

Donate money: Financial donations are welcome. Make checks payable to Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church and marked “for Backpack Buddies.” Drop them at the church office or mail them 1915 Oakdale Road, Charlotte, NC 28216.

Donate food items: The church welcomes any individually packaged, nutritious, child-friendly foods, such as: boxes of 100 percent fruit juice, Oatmeal, grits, cereal, shelf-stable milk, tuna, macaroni and cheese, cracker packs, cookie packs, chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, applesauce, cans of fruit, spaghettios, ravioli, chili, canned vegetables, granola bars, pudding, pop tarts, Vienna sausages, peanut butter, bottled water, goldfish, graham crackers, pretzels and rice cakes.

For more information, contact Pastor Billy Towery or Sherri Brown at 704-392-2387.

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