A People magazine article that sparked Nicole Coffin’s interest has turned into a program helping Grand Haven families.
With the help of volunteers and a steering committee, the Grand Haven woman brought the national Blessings in a Backpack program to Griffin Elementary School.
The program is providing food on weekends for 42 students who qualify for the federal free and reduced-price meal programs. It costs $80 to feed one student for 38 weeks, which is about $2.10 a week, Coffin said.
Since beginning the program a few months ago, Coffin said they’ve received food and monetary donations to allow them to feed 112 students, which has led them to expand the program. She said they are working on introducing the program at Ferry Elementary and Voyager schools.
“It’s been great to watch the community come together,” she said.
Each Thursday, a handful of volunteers pack the bags with several items — such as macaroni and cheese, tuna, chicken noodle soup, fruit, and juice boxes. On Fridays, teachers discreetly place the drawstring bags into the student’s regular backpack.
The program keeps the participating students' identities confidential, and volunteers only know a randomly assigned number and any allergies.
Tricia Wisniewski said her family would have qualified for the program when she was growing up and it would have helped them. Her children attend Ferry Elementary School, so she’s helping some of their friends as a volunteer in packing the bags on Thursdays.
“It feels very rewarding,” she said.
Griffin Elementary School Principal Debra Mann said the program is meeting a need for many families. She said the children and their families are special to the school's staff, and they want to do whatever it takes to help — even if the need goes beyond the classroom.
“The children that are being helped with this program are living through tough economic times, where their families are having to make tough decisions about how to spend the little money they have,” Mann said. “Blessings in a Backpack makes one of those decisions a little easier and may help lower some of the stress that can come from worry about how to make ends meet.”
Coffin said there are more students who are eligible for the program than are currently enrolled, and it isn’t too late to participate. Parents can enroll their children by contacting Griffin Elementary School.
WANT TO HELP?
To donate online, visit blessingsinabackpack.org.
To donate by mail, make a check payable to Blessings in a Backpack Bank Lockbox and specify “Grand Haven Area Public Schools” in the check memo. Mail to: Blessings in a Backpack Bank Lockbox, P.O. Box 950291, Louisville, KY 40295.
For information about volunteering for the program, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Like” the “Blessings in a Backpack-Grand Haven, MI” Facebook page.