- January 31st, 2011
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By Kyle Janssen
Nutrition Programs AmeriCorps*VISTA
The Idaho Foodbank
Run out of birthday, anniversary and holiday gift ideas? Instead of spending money on trinkets or the latest electronic toys that will quickly become outdated, you could use that money to make a charitable donation in a loved-one’s name – a donation that will make a positive difference in the life of someone in need.
That’s the idea behind the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s most recent fundraiser for The Idaho Foodbank Backpack Program, which provides food each Friday to children who might not otherwise have access to food over the weekend.
“It started because my mother-in-law is 92-years-old and has everything she needs,” said Carol Sevier, one of the fundraiser organizers. “We never know what to get her for gifts, so we decided to make a donation in her name.”
That thought grew into a gift-card sale that allowed church-goers to purchase a gift card in someone’s name, and the money would be donated to the Backpack Program.
Sevier designed and made little cloth backpacks to serve as gift card holders, and Anthony, who prefers to go simply by his first name, designed the cards. All the time and materials to create the cards and card holder backpacks were donated.
“This is really neat because it allows a person to donate to a charitable cause but also give something tangible to the gift recipient,” Anthony said.
The fundraiser collected more than $2,500 for the Backpack Program that supports Whittier Elementary School.
“The Backpack program is great,” Sevier said, “because it serves a really vulnerable population who can’t really help themselves.
Anthony added, “We got a thank-you letter from a little girl at Whittier that said, ‘Thank you for helping me eat.’ It’s awesome because it’s a direct action to making a change. We’re empowering kids.”
The church has “adopted” Whittier Elementary for the last few years, helping to raise money for The Idaho Foodbank Backpack Program. According to Sheila Ames, another organizer of the fundraiser, the church also has a music scholarship fund for Whittier students, and holds hygiene product drives and mitten and winter coat drives to provide students and families with other things they need.
Sevier, Ames and Anthony are part of the church’s Hunger and Food Source Coalition, which sponsors several events and groups, within the church and the greater community, to end hunger.
The group was involved in the recent change in policy at the Capital City Public Market so now people can use their Idaho EBT card, or food stamp benefits, at the market to purchase fresh produce and other food products. Other events include food drives, operating a church food pantry and collection plate offerings at the church that go to the Backpack Program. Last March the church collection plate raised $1,500.
“We just have a burning passion to eradicate hunger,” Sevier said.
Ames said the church plans to have more plate offerings dedicated to the Backpack Program and to do the holiday gift-cards fundraiser again next year.
“Our goal is to be able to fund all the backpacks that go to Whittier,” Ames said.
The church group also participated in The Idaho Foodbank’s “Feed the Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service” on Monday, Jan. 17. BUUF volunteers helped assemble the Backpack refills that go out to hungry students.
“We started out saying, ‘Let’s just try it and see what happens,’ ” Sevier said. “We’re just thrilled with the result. Our church is not that big, but look what we’ve accomplished. The only investment in this was effort, and it was well worth it.”
All the food provided through The Idaho Foodbank Backpack Program is purchased through generous corporate and individual donations. Each weekend backpack costs $6.20. The cost to sponsor one child for one month is $24.80. The cost to sponsor one child for an entire school year is $229.40.
Through additional funding and support, you can provide weekend nutrition for hungry children, because no child should have to go hungry over the weekend.