Full backpacks, full bellies By Joshua Nishimoto
BoCo Backpacks is proudly serving three elementary schools including Naples Elementary, Valley View Elementary School and now Paul Elementary School. They also serve the Boundary County Middle School and the Julien Bucher Early Learning Center, which is their Head Start program, feeding a total of 100 children each weekend.
“We purchase a food kit from Second Harvest,” said program director Shirley Anderson. “It includes ready-to-eat-food like little packages of SpaghettiOs, noodles and meatballs, milk and cereal. This month we have Pop-Tarts, applesauce, yogurt, and this week we’ve included a meat stick.”
Each meal kit (designed for a two-day weekend) costs $5. Boundary County has a three-day weekend, so they send two of those kits out per child. That comes to spending total of $10 per child.
“The number of children we serve starts off slow at the beginning of the year and increases throughout the year,” Anderson said. “However, since COVID, we have seen a decline in numbers for our program. We are down about 60 students. I’m not quite sure why, unless we have a corresponding decline in our student population, of which at this point I have not confirmed.”
One of BoCo Backpacks’ main fundraising programs is their Christmas Ornament Sale. This program helps fund their mission and brings joy to both the children who decorate the ornaments and the people who receive them. “We have a person who donates plastic ornaments to us, and we distribute them to all of the fifth-graders in the county. They decorate them and return them to us,” Anderson said. “Now new to our ornament sale this year, we have 30 students at the middle school art class who will also be decorating ornaments. So, we are going to have approximately 130 ornaments, and we ask for donations for those.”
With the outpour of support from the community, BoCo Backpacks can support hungry children through their respective schools without a lot of restrictions.
“We have a very supportive community,” Anderson shared. “We have a number of businesses that support and donate to our program, as well as community groups and individuals throughout the county. This year, for the first time, we are not applying for grants because our community support is as such that we do not need those grants—and we are pretty tickled with that. It gives us a bit more flexibility in what we are doing.”
The program is a 100 percent volunteer program, which allows them to direct their funds to where they are needed most—the kids.
“We do not have any overhead for our program because the Lutheran Church kindly allows us to use their building for our meetings,” Anderson said. “Every penny that is donated to our program is used to purchase food for students.”
BoCo Backpacks will have a booth to kick off their ornament fundraising program at the Celebration of Crafts on December 3 and 4. They will staff their booth with volunteers who can answer anyone’s questions about the program.
To fill out an application for a child to enroll in the BoCo Backpacks program, to donate to the cause, or to find out more information about BoCo Backpacks, you can find them on Facebook.