We Put the Fun in Fundraising!

Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge works hard to ensure that the needy children in the Grand Ledge area have food to eat on the weekends during the school year, but we are always up for fun, too. Check out the pictures and video of two recent events held as fundraisers for us. Thanks to these great organizations providing us with sponsorship-level donations, the needy children of Grand Ledge will have weekend food during the 2015-16 school year.

More fun is on the way! Join us at the upcoming “Art to Music” fundraiser that Van Gogh Tattoos is hosting for us at Sanctuary Spirits on June 26 from 6-9 pm.

The Cruizin’ for Kids Car Show

Hosted by the Capital City Corvette Club and sponsored by Sparrow PHP, the Cruizin’ for Kids Car Show was held on a chilly evening on May 19, but the cars were hot, so no one cared.

Caring Neighbor Foundation/Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge Golf Outing

The weather was gorgeous for this June 6 event at Centennial Acres Golf Course in Sunfield, Michigan, hosted by the Caring Neighbor Foundation as a fundraiser for Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge. Thanks to all of our sponsors for the event: Stanley Koks Foundation (major sponsor); The Willow Ridge PTO, Neff PTO, Dart Bank, and Wolverine Water Treatment Corp. (hole sponsors); Dr. Scott Stevenson, DDS (scorecard sponsor); and The Caring Neighbor Foundation (cart sponsor).

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Now Raising Funds for the 2015-16 School Year

Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge is currently providing weekend food to 260 Grand Ledge area children who might not otherwise have enough to eat on the weekends. In order to continue to provide the weekend food to our hungry local kids, we need the money to do so. We are currently raising funds to pay for the 2015-16 school year. It only costs $100 to sponsor a child for 32-weeks during the school year, and we anticipate feeding up to 300 children next year. If you can’t afford $100, we are grateful for any amount that you are able to donate.

We are primarily a community-supported project that relies on individual community donors to provide 65% ofChild Eating our yearly budget. Every cent of your donation goes toward buying food to feed the kids with on the weekends. Any of the minimal operating expenses that we incur are paid for through a small grant that the Caring Neighbor Foundation in Grand Ledge provided to us, or the items/services are donated to us. Our national organization, that acts as our 501(c)3, pays for their own salaries and operating expenses through a foundation grant. Therefore, NOTHING comes off the top of your donation, which is quite unusual in the charitable giving world.

You can send your tax-deductible donation to: Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge, PO Box 162, Grand Ledge, MI 48837. You will receive a receipt for tax purposes in 4-6 weeks. If you would like to make a one-time or recurring donation on your credit card, click here for more information.

Upcoming Fundraising Events

Thanks to our event hosts, the Capital City Corvette Club (CCCC) and the Caring Neighbor Foundation (CNF), we have a couple of really fun fundraising events coming up soon. Click on the links below for more information.

2014 Best in Show - "Orange Crush"
2014 Best in Show – “Orange Crush”
The CCCC is hosting the 2nd Annual Cruizin’ for Kids Car Show 2015 on Tuesday, May 19 from 5:30 – 8:30.

Check out a musical slide show of last year’s stellar car show event here:
2014 Cruizin’ for Kids Slide Show (turn up your speakers!).

On Saturday, June 6, the CNF is hosting the 2nd Annual Caring Neighbor Foundation / Blessings in a Backpack Golf Carts Golf Outing 2015 on Saturday, June 6, at Centennial Acres in Sunfield (MI). Shotgun start is at 2:30.

Join us at both events and kick off your early summer fun while helping the children in the Grand Ledge area.

 

School Year Update: 2014-15

Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge is now in its third year of operation, providing weekend food to children who are at risk for food insecurity during the school year in the Grand Ledge Public Schools. A child who is considered at risk for food insecurity may have inconsistent access to food at home.

Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge is providing weekend food to 240 children in who may be at risk for food insecurity in the 2014-15 school year. While the free and reduced lunch programs feed the impoverished children during the school week, we aim to make sure that these children are fed on the weekends by providing them with a bag of nutritious, kid-friendly food on Fridays during the school year. All children should show up to school on Mondays well fed and ready to learn.

An October 20, 2014, report in JAMA Pediatrics Pediatrics found that one in four children in the US is food insecure. According to the Kids Count in Michigan data, there has been a 53% increase in the rate of children who qualified for federal food assistance between 2005-2012 in Eaton County.

In a December 2013 Kids Count in Michigan news release, Jane Zehnder-Merrell director at the Michigan League for Public Policy, stated that while the recession has officially ended, the toll on children is still apparent because, as research has shown, there is a deep, lifelong impact on children who grow up in poverty due to deprivation in their early childhood years.

Included in the 240 students we provide weekend food to are 16 students that the Grand Ledge High School counselors have identified as beig “couch homeless,” meaning that they live on the couches of friends and family. Principal Dawn Kennaugh at Beagle Elementary School recently discovered that 19 of her students are in transient living situations. Sadly, it was recently reported that there are 31,000 homeless students in Michigan .

Thanks to donations from community members, businesses, service clubs and foundations, we have been able to fund the program again for the 2014-15 school year. In spite of some significant food cost increases, we still have a little left over to add about 15 more students to our program.

If your child is enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program at school and could us some food to tide him/her over on the weekends this school year, get in touch with your school contact and ask for a permission letter that you can fill out and return.

NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin said, “If we can conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger.” If you wish to help us conquer childhood hunger in Grand Ledge and Wacousta, please consider us worthy of a tax deductible donation in your holiday giving plans. $100 feeds a school child for the school year (for more information on making a donation, click here )

On behalf of the steering committee of Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge, we wish you a Happy Holiday season.

Tina Erskine, Program Founder

To All the Generous People Who Made It Happen

Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge is grateful for all the community members, groups, clubs, churches, sponsors and grantors who chipped in with time and/or money to make our program happen during the 2013-14 school year. Thanks to their contributions, we were able to provide approximately 8,640 bags of food on the weekends to the children who needed a little something extra to tide them over on the weekends.

While we try to thank everyone publicly throughout the year on our Facebook page and through letters to the editor in the Grand Ledge Independent, sometimes it is important to say it all in one place so that everyone can see what a community-wide effort it takes to make this program a success. We can’t say thanks enough!

Packing Site Volunteers – Working Behind the Scenes

Thank you to our packing site staff who show up at our donated room at the Sawdon Administration Building for 32 Wednesdays during the school year. They manage and buy the groceries, count the bags, prepare the bins for packing the bags, schedule the volunteers and keep the operation running like clockwork:

Bernie Johnson – Site Captain
Fay Schroder – Site Captain
Lyn Danes – Volunteer Coordinator
Dee Campbell – Coordinator Trainee

Logistics / Distribution Volunteers – Getting the Bags to the Kids

How do we get the groceries to the packing site, and how do those bins show up at the schools? Lots of behind the scenes volunteers, that’s how. Rain, sleet or snow (and there was a lot of the latter this year), the groceries were picked up every month and delivered to the packing site, and the bins of weekend food bags were delivered to the schools for distribution.
Thanks to:

-The Grand Ledge Lion’s Club (coordinated by Dave Peake) who pick up the grocery orders every month, and who also help with the distributions to some of the schools (Grand Ledge High School, Beagle, Neff Kindergarten Center).
-The Wacousta Lion’s Club (coordinated by Johnny Maahs) who pick up the bins of bags every week and deliver them to Wacousta Elementary.
-Erin Zulewski, of the Willow Ridge PTO, who picks up and distributes the bags for Willow Ridge.
-The City of Grand Ledge employees (coordinated by City Councilman Rick Lantz) who eagerly signed on this year to take over the distribution of the bags to a new school that we added on this year, Holbrook Early Childhood Education Center.
-The Beagle Distribution Team (coordinated by Reshay Tanasse) who handles the Friday distributions at Beagle.
-Pat Huhn, who delivers to St. Michael.

Program Sponsors – 2013-14 – We Couldn’t Do It Without You!

The businesses, churches, foundations and individuals who have stepped forward with a significant donation ($1,000 or more) to our program during the 2013-14 school year are as follows. We couldn’t do what we do without you! A big thank you goes out to:

Capital Region Community Foundation – Youth Action Committee
Class of 1962 – Grand Ledge High School
The Erskine Family (in memory of “Tim” Erskine)
First Congregational United Church of Christ
Grand Ledge First United Methodist Church
Grand Ledge Lion’s Club
Jeff & Sally Harrold
Jackson National Life
Lanjopoulos Chiropractic
St. Michael Parish
Dr. Scott Stevenson

Fundraising Events – Time and Effort Well-Spent

We had two successful fundraising events this year, and all the people that made them happen deserve a big round of applause!

-The Cruizin’ for Kids Car Show: Thanks to event sponsor PHP Family Care, and our hosts – the Capital City Corvette Club (CCCC). Thanks to Principal Dave Averill (also a CCCC member), Sandy Bechtel (CCCC) and Gloria Reiffer (CCCC and PHP Family Care) for all the effort that went into putting on this fun event. Thanks to the staff at Neff and the PTO for their support and help, too. Also thanks to the steering committee volunteers, relatives and spouses: Deb Peake, Annette & George Ryan, Jean & Mike Folk, Ron Erskine, Bonnie Bucqueroux, and Chris Richardson-Beagle & Mark Beagle for their feet-on-the-ground help that we needed to manage such an ambitious event.

-Caring Neighbor Foundation Golf Outing: The Caring Neighbor Foundation (CNF) hosted this event as a fundraiser for Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge. Thanks to Richard Currier and Chris Richardson-Beagle from the CNF (and incoming chair of BIABGL), who along with Deb Peake from BIABGL, worked together to make this a successful event. Thanks to Steve and Diane Peake, Jeanne Pearl-Wright, and all the golfers who signed up to play on that gorgeous day for making the event a great one.

Grand Ledge Public School Staff – The “Front Line”

From the donation of our packing site by the superintendent, to the secretary who discreetly slips a bag of food into a backpack on Friday afternoons, the Grand Ledge Public School staff plays a huge role in making sure that the kids are signed up for the program and that the bags get into their hands. We can’t thank you enough for caring about the children in your schools in this and many other ways.

Grand Ledge Independent – Keeping the Community Informed

A special thank you goes out to Editor Barb Modrack of the Grand Ledge Independent who is an unsung hero to the charities in Grand Ledge. If it weren’t for her willingness to inform the public about the needs in our community, the work of charities such as Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge would be impossible.

PTOs and PTAs – We Are Grateful For Your Support!

The PTO and PTA organizations in the schools work to support us in many ways, such as volunteering to pack the bags. And this past year, the Willow Ridge PTA donated the proceeds of the popcorn sales for their Family Fun Night to Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge.

2013-14 Steering Committee – 19 People Guiding the Program
Thanks to the Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge Steering Committee for taking time out of their busy evenings to attend meetings and help us make the important decisions for our program. While many of the members take on leadership roles that require a significant commitment of time, others take on functions that they have special talents for, such as letter writing or doing the art work. Thank you so much for everything! You are truly the backbone of our effort.

Note: The web master is fearful that she missed someone who provided a significant contribution of time or money, and would be grateful for an email or call if she has mistakenly done so. Contact: Tina Erskine at tinaerskine@gmail.com / 517-372-3437.

Holbrook Early Education/Preschool Added

Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge began providing bags of nutritious, kid friendly food on weekends to needy children in the Early Childhood/Preschool Program at Holbrook School on November 8.

Research shows a positive correlation between intelligence and behavior with good nutrition in early childhood.

We also provide food to children at-risk for food insecurity on the weekends to the children at Beagle, Delta Center, Neff, Wacousta, St. Michael and Willow Ridge elementary schools. The homeless students in the Grand Ledge High School are also served by our program.

Important 2013 Dates!

IMPORTANT DATES!

September 13: Permission letters go home in elementary students’ Friday Folders. If your child qualifies for the free- or reduced-lunch program, he/she qualifies for Blessings in A Backpack and can receive a bag a of supplemental food on Fridays to tide them over on the weekends.

September 20: Permission letters must be returned to school office.

October 4: First bags go home with the students!

Middle and high school students should inquire at their school counseling office to sign up for the supplemental weekend food.

If you have any questions, please call Tina Erskine at 517-372-3437, or contact your school secretary or the school counseling office.

Coordinator’s Note: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

LOOKING BACK

It’s hard to believe that Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge has been up and running for such a short time as we reflect back on the many things we were able to accomplish this past year.

We initiated the Blessings in a Backpack program in October of 2012 at Beagle Elementary School. We began providing the hungry children there with a bag of kid-friendly food such as tuna, soup, applesauce, raisins, oatmeal, canned vegetables, macaroni and cheese, and granola bars to tide them over on the weekends.

Volunteers packing the bags at Sawdon.
Volunteers packing the bags at Sawdon.

Because of the generosity of the individuals, businesses, churches and service clubs who donated money to our effort, along with a grant from the Jackson National Fund, we were able to expand the program into all five elementary schools in the Grand Ledge School District in early 2013. By the end of the school year in June of 2013, we were feeding between 250 and 300 students who were considered at-risk for food insecurity on the weekends.

There is nothing more basic and important than feeding a hungry child. Better test scores, improved reading skills, positive classroom behavior, improved health and increased attendance have all been attributed to the success of Blessings In A Backpack programs. “I already see a difference,” a local teacher told one of our volunteers, just two weeks after the program was initiated at her school.

Blessings In A Backpack Grand Ledge is a 100% volunteer-run, community –supported program. School secretaries, Parent Teacher Organizations, the Grand Ledge and Wacousta Lion’s Clubs, businesses, and community members all gave donations of time and money to ensure that all aspects of the program ran smoothly.

Even 6-year-old Zack Zulewski contributed the $50 he made from a lemonade stand to our program.
Even 6-year-old Zack Zulewski contributed the $50 he made from a lemonade stand to our program.

Every Wednesday, the bags had to be packed, and every Friday the bags had to be delivered to the schools. Our Wednesday packing sessions have become so popular that our volunteer calendar is already booked through 2014!

The parents I surveyed at the end of the school year had positive things to say about the program:

“This is an excellent program and we are very grateful for the help”

“Please continue this program. It gave my child the extra nutrients she needs.”

“The snacks really helped my son who was often hungry between meals.”

“My child felt more independent and cared for knowing that someone made this bag just for them.”

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE 2013-14 SCHOOL YEAR

Based on the end-of-school-year numbers in June, we anticipate that we will provide weekend food to between 300-350 hungry students in the Grand Ledge School District during the 2013-14 school year.

We also would like to be able to provide food for about 30 students in the middle and high schools who have been identified as homeless by their school counselors. Because they require more calories than the younger children in the program, we would like to be able to provide them with extra nutrition, contingent on funding.

Due to increased food costs and to ensure adequate nutrition, we are campaigning for $100 per child to fill the food bags this year. Power_of_100

Checks can be mailed to: Blessings in a Backpack Grand Ledge, PO Box 162, Grand Ledge, MI 48837.

Recurring and one-time credit card donations can be made online: Credit Card Donation Information

As the old African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Let’s rally around the hungry children in our community again this year, Grand Ledge. Please help us reach our fundraising goal of $35,000.

Sincerely,

Tina Erskine
Coordinator