Club helps students from going hungry

Every Friday afternoon, Minden Elementary School counselor Mary Garcia and a team of volunteers load up 22 backpacks with enough nonperishable food to last students for the weekend.

Friday, the final day of the school year, Garcia sent a load of summer supplies home for the children in 15 disadvantaged families.

This is the third year the school has sponsored BackPack Buddies Club that is funded by donations and put together by volunteers.

"This incredibly important program has been critical to a number of our families at Minden Elementary by providing food over the weekend that would not otherwise be available - especially in our current economy," said Ginger Easley, coordinator of the club.

On May 29, the backpacks were filled with fresh loaves of bread, jelly, soup, tuna fish, snacks, energy bars, juice boxes and other treats.

Garcia makes sure the backpacks are ready for the students before they board their school buses for the trip home.

Bus driver Don Hunt collected the backpacks for the five children on his Topaz Ranch Estates run who get the weekly supplies.

"I put them behind me to make sure they don't get into them until they get home," Hunt said.

He said the other students on the bus are respectful of the children who receive the extra weekend boost.

"They'll remind them not to forget their backpacks when they get off the bus," he said.

Playground aide Judy Waite does most of the shopping for the program and collects the children's empty backpacks on Monday.

"I shop about once a month at Costco," she said. "My husband goes with me. He pushes our cart and I push the cart for the school."

Waite said she enjoys helping out.

"I've always been fortunate in my life," she said. "This way I can give back."

Easley said the BackPack Buddies Club was the recipient of two outreach programs on the National Day of Service in January.

The program received 250 individual food items and a check for $50.

"This year has seen support from so many different local businesses, community outreach programs and individuals," Easley said.

Cash donations were made by Minden Fortnightly, Carson Valley 20/30 Club and private individuals.

Food is donated regularly by Kevin Mary and Holly Morrow at Lira's Supermarket, the Russell family at Russell's Mercantile. Dental supplies are donated by Dr. Timothy Pinther, Dr. Vincent D'Ascoli and Dr. Jay Marriage.

Volunteers include Waite, Phil and Lin Larson, Mitchell Tems and Mike Gilbert. Garcia said anyone interested in donating to the program can contact her at 782-5510.

"We are very touched by this community's continued support of this program at MES," said Principal Ken Stoll.


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