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Local church fills backpacks and bellies

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Imagine being a child and not having anything to eat from lunch on Friday to breakfast on Monday. It may be impossible to imagine for some people, but for others, it is a harsh reality.

The only food some kids get is breakfast and lunch at school. These children are all around you; you see them at the store, at school and at other places in your community. And every Friday, you can see them carrying home a backpack that is not filled with books.

The Backpack Buddies ministry at Forrest Burdette Memorial United Methodist Church in Hurricane has been filling and delivering food-filled backpacks to several local schools for about two years. This ministry, coordinated by Michelle Jackson, was started to provide kids with food for the weekend. The backpacks are filled during the week, and then delivered to the schools on Friday.

"You don't really think about people not having food over the weekend," said Leslie Shafer, a volunteer with whom I helped fill bags one sunny day.

We started by wheeling a cart filled with donated non-perishable items to a garage behind the church. Neat and organized shelves line one wall of the garage; the other has tables labeled with each school and the number of backpacks they need each week.

The process starts with plastic bags that are donated to the church's ministry. The volunteers move down the shelved wall, filling the bag with food items: two drinks, such as juice and milk; two breakfast items, such as instant oatmeal and Pop-Tarts; two meals, such as canned ravioli and microwavable macaroni and cheese, and four snacks, which range from granola bars to pudding cups.

Once the bags are filled, they are knotted and placed on the proper school's table. They stay there until Friday, when one of the ministry leaders delivers the bags to the schools disguised in backpacks.

These backpacks are then given to the kids. They can take the food home without anyone knowing what they are truly carrying.

It is hard to tell how many young people do not get enough food to eat. The Backpack Buddies ministry has taken up this sometimes overlooked cause to offer needy kids in the community something most people take for granted.

If you would like to volunteer for Backpack Buddies or donate food items, contact Forrest Burdette Memorial United Methodist Church at office@forrestburdette.com or 304-562-5903.


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