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Community and Partnership Ensure Backpacks of Hope Continue

BY MELANIE WADE –

A total of $18,361.10 was donated to the River Valley Regional Foodbank out of Fort to support Polk County’s Backpack Program for Kids on Thursday, January 11 at the monthly meeting of the Mena Lioness Lions Club. The funds were raised through the Lioness’ annual fundraising efforts and their partnership with Pulse Multi-Media through the Harvest of Hope Radiothon. Many individuals and businesses in the county have been staunch supporters of the program for several years, showing the county’s willingness to always assist where needed.

“We forget what a privilege it is to have funds to go to the grocery store and buy food,” said Lioness Patty Young. Through the Backpack Program, children are able to take a backpack of ‘kid-friendly, ready-to-eat or simple-to-prepare’ food home with them from school each week to give them something to eat on the weekends while away from school. Not only does it give the student food to eat, they also have food for younger siblings that have not reached school age. Most of the kids they serve get free or reduced lunches at school, but the struggle comes on the weekends, and over holiday breaks. “Most kids get really excited about breaks from school but for the kids on our program, that’s a very troubling thought, that they’re not going to get regular food. The backpacks and meal kits fill that need.”

The Mena Lioness Lions have headed up the Backpack Program for several years and raise several thousands of dollars each year to support the program and insure its future in the county. To fully implement the Backpack Program into a school, it costs $3,000 per semester per school. That’s $6,000 per year, and with Polk County having a total of eight schools, that equals $48,000 in just Polk County. Along with monetary donations, food items are also donated, which supplement the program. Schools and businesses also hold fundraisers throughout the year and donations can be made any time of year. In November, Cossatot River High School conducted a three-week long food drive in which students collected an astounding 6,664 food items to supplement their district’s program.

For more information on the Backpack Program, a list of kid-friendly items to donate, or if you would like to conduct a food drive for the program, contact Patty Young at 479-394-2211 or any Lioness member.

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