More than 100 Carson City kids received new backpacks just in time for school to start Monday.
The backpacks were given by Food For Thought, an organization who has helped feed and provide a place for elementary and middle school students to go during the summer.
With the help of the Carson City Sheriff’s Office Special Enforcement Team, the Food For Thought volunteers handed out about 120 backpacks in the Park Terrace Park Friday to children from low income homes. The backpacks were filled with binders, pencils, highlighters and notebooks for the students to be prepared for their first day of school.
“We put ourselves in low to moderate income areas and we know the need is here for these kids,” said Marlene Maffei, executive director of Food For Thought. “We just want to make sure they are prepared with the items they need come school on Monday.”
This is the fifth year the organization has held this event for a host of excited kids eager to pick out a new backpack in a variety of colors.
“I like all the helpful stuff inside,” said 11-year-old Maria Ramirez.
“I think the backpacks are kind of great because they have stuff for school,” added 7-year-old Guadeloupe.
Maffei said she invited the Sheriff’s Office SET team in order to help the kids see police in a better light.
“There have been so many negative opinions of the police and doing this is a good thing for the kids,” Maffei said.
For a lot of the children, they often see police in negative way. At the beginning of the event several of the children asked the four officers if they were here to arrest the kids.
“Anytime we can get out to the community in a positive light it is important because unfortunately these neighborhoods see us in a negative light because we are there with crimes with their families or them,” said Sgt. Daniel Gonzales. “So when we can do something where we weren’t called to a crime and come out without enforcement action to interact in a non-criminal interaction.”
The kids enjoyed getting to talk with the officers, petting the K9 deputy Rex and “driving” the Gang Unit SUV.
“Our job is to go out and get crime and this way the kids can see us as the good guys and see that the dog isn’t scary, he will lay down and get his belly rubbed,” Gonzales said.
Also at the backpack giveaway, Maffei recognized one special parent from the neighborhood, Victor Clavel, with a certificate of appreciation for contributing his time to the kids and the program. Clavel would spend nearly every day out at the park with the kids, playing soccer and other games. Maffei even nicknamed him “Soccer Dad.”
“If there were 100 more Victors, we could do incredible things with the community,” Gonzales said. “We would put the SET team out of business, which is a good thing, because the kids would have something to do and not be out getting in trouble.”
Food For Thought was able to purchase the backpacks and supplies because of a grant from the Reno Rodeo Foundation, a monetary donation from Greater Nevada Credit Union and a backpack drive the organization held the last few weeks.
Food For Thought has provided free lunches to elementary and middle school children during the summer. They set up in Park Terrace Park every Monday through Friday from the first day of summer to the last, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They provide a nutritious lunch for each child as well as providing activities like checkers, puzzles, soccer and frisbee. The organization has provided nearly 8,000 meals to children this summer.