It’s no surprise that due to the rural nature of our beautiful state, it can be more difficult for some families to benefit from community resources than it is for others. That’s where the Backpack Buddy Program comes in, as they are fiercely committed to filling in those gaps. Doug Erwin is the Program Director for Putnam County and started the Backpack Buddy Program, which provides food and personal care items for students who may otherwise go without in the summer months, in his garage nine years ago. The first year, the program shipped 198 boxes.
The Backpack Buddy program’s Mission Statement is “supporting kids in need,” and the program is going strong thanks to its generous supporters and donors. Last year, they shipped 2,300 boxes that benefitted kids in three counties, which besides Putnam, included Boone and the Sophia area of Raleigh. Each June, workers and volunteers get together to pack the boxes and get them ready for mailing. After packing the items in boxes, they mail them to the child’s home, which Doug says is actually a perfect system during the pandemic. The pandemic has unfortunately caused some setbacks over the past year, as they’ve had to cut the number of volunteers, but they have been committed to making it work. But isn’t it expensive to pay to ship thousands of boxes of food? Absolutely; but Doug says it’s worth it to know the food is making to the homes of the kids who need it. In addition to the food in the boxes, they contain information such as flyers from Work Force WV with tips on how to look for a job, information from the library, and Highlights magazines for the kids.
Interested in becoming involved? If so, it’s the perfect time to get started! In early February, Backpack Buddy will start planning for their June kickoff with an informational meeting about the summer plan for support, sponsors, and community involvement. They’re always looking for new ideas, including social media, fundraising, box content, etc. Contact Doug for more information at 304-549-1387 or firstname.lastname@example.org.