Effingham Backpack Buddies provides weekend lunches, snacks to hundreds of local children.
Students are back in school, and that means Effingham Backpack Buddies are back in action, too.
The six-year-old program, located in two rooms of an old school building, provides weekend food for hundreds of children in 11 schools in coastal Georgia's Effingham County. Volunteers meet each Thursday to pack bags of food, which are dropped off to the school counselors who distribute them to children in need.
"We're a group of dedicated volunteers who truly care for the children of Effingham County," says Terri Smith, who balances her volunteer leadership of the program with a full-time job and all the duties that come with being a mother of four boys ages 11-30. "People show up to pack for us each week. We can call on them for any needs, even when we have about a half hour to unload 16,000 pounds of food."
Volunteers pack donated food that includes milk, fruit, proteins, oatmeal, cereal, breakfast bars, snacks and more each week. Those bags are then delivered to area school counselors and teachers to pass out to students on Thursday afternoons or Friday mornings.
In addition to packing weekly food bags, volunteers also spend time around the holidays packing treat bags and stockings for the children in the community. Local churches also help by soliciting donations such as juice boxes and snacks during local Vacation Bible Schools.
Effingham Backpack Buddies, which Terri leads with Trish Guetterman, has a goal to be in every school in the county. It also wants to work with other small organizations who provide similar services, streamlining efforts to reduce hunger in the community and creating one big program to share resources.
"We love seeking kids impacted by our efforts," says Terri. "It makes us want to grow and do even more. We want to help as many kids as we can."
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