The first year of the Iola-Scandinavia Project Backpack program would not have happened without volunteers.
These people were recently treated to a pizza buffet in appreciation of their hours of volunteerism.
“We are celebrating a successful first year of Project Backpack in the I-S School District,” said Sue Halverson, who helps coordinate the local program.
The pizza and other treats were donated by an unnamed source, according to Halverson.
Locally, a total of 25 volunteers donated time picking up the backpacks in Waupaca every Friday and delivering them to the I-S Elementary School; returning the backpacks to Waupaca on Tuesday; and helping to label, sort and pack food items on Thursdays.
“This is an important program because I remember as a child both parents working and the time between the end of school and supper at eight was a long wait,” Audrey Kirchhoff said.
“I like to do all my volunteer work for anything that is for the kids,” Dennis Medrow said.
The program sends backpacks filled with food items home with needy children to use on the weekends. The backpacks must be returned on Monday in order for the children to continue to receive them.
The backpacks contain enough nutritional food for the weekend, with extra food added for longer weekends or vacation days. There are also menu suggestions for the food that is included.
Most of the food is ready to eat or can be prepared easily in a microwave. Included are items such as instant oatmeal, hot chocolate, applesauce, cheese and crackers, fruit cups, jello cups, and coupons for perishables like milk and bread.
Up to 50 backpacks have been sent per week to the I-S School District since the program began serving the area last September. The last delivery of the school year will be on May 16.
The program is coordinated at the school level by ISES Counselor Cathy Rocco.
Rocco determines which children need the backpacks, based on surveys sent home and families qualifying for reduced or free lunches. She keeps the names confidential by using a numbering system.
Every Friday, Rocco places the individual backpacks into each student’s locker. This helps maintain the confidentiality of the program.
Halverson collects donations of food and money from local businesses. She also coordinates the volunteers.
“The easiest part was getting volunteers,” she said. “I don’t know anyone who turned us down.”