January 30, 2013 - An effort to meet the nutritional needs of all children in the Lake Orion community is underway.
Jim Boehler of Lakes Community Credit Union has a check for $823. Fifth grade students Andrew Nolan, and Lilly Snyder, Kellie McDonald, owner of The Goddard School has a check for $1,000 plus $1,500 from students’ fundraising, Third grade students Juliana Parry, and Ryann Holden, and Cheryl Whitton, president, Blessings in a Backpack - Michigan State Advisory Board has a check for $1,000 from the North Woodward Community Foundation.
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A program called "Blessings in a Backpack" is a national organization working in 42 states, including Michigan, that provides free food to meet at-risk children's nutritional needs on weekends. A new group called Blessings in a Backpack-Lake Orion wants to become part of the successful program, which was named People Magazine's Charity of the Year in 2012.
The Lake Orion group is well on its way to meet a goal and requirement to raise $24,000 to get the program going and then become self-sustaining. About $10,000 has been raised so far.
There are 1,500 school-age children in the Lake Orion community on the free and reduced lunch program through the schools. Teachers have noticed children often come to school on Monday mornings hungry, lethargic and definitely not ready to learn due to not having their nutritional needs met when they did not have access to meals they receive at school.
The Lake Orion group is a committee of parents, local business owners, community members and educators that have formed a partnership with Blessings in a Backpack-Michigan, the North Woodward Community Foundation and Meijer to provide at risk students with a backpack containing six nutritious meals to feed them over the weekend.
The first two schools to benefit from this program will be Blanche Sims Elementary and Pine Tree Elementary. Once these two schools are up and running, the program will be rolled out to the other elementary schools in the district followed by the middle schools and then the high school. School-age children in neighboring communities of Auburn Hills, Clarkston, Rochester/Rochester Hills, Oxford and Waterford are already benefiting from the Blessings in a Backpack program.
Kim Haynes, a co-chair of the Lake Orion program, said the group hopes one day to offer the service to all schools in the community, including private and parochial schools.
The group is off to a good start, having raised about $10,000 and Haynes said the enthusiasm and cooperation already shown has been heart-warming.
"Lake Orion still has a small town feel and people are working together to make this happen for our children," she said.
However, before any backpacks can be filled and children sent home with food for the weekend Blessings in a Backpack-Lake Orion, along with the community, needs to raise $24,000. This is the cost to get the program up and running for the initial two schools. ($100 will provide a backpack of food to one child each weekend for an entire school year.)
Haynes said efforts to reach out to all members of the Orion community including parents, local businesses, community members and educators, is proving to be successful.
Several businesses have donated goods and money and many more have pledged support in other ways.
For example, Haynes said the Citizens Community Credit Union has pledged to match all donations made through their Lake Orion office. Custom Threads and Sports is donating $10 for every varsity jacket sold in February and $1 for every purchase made in the store during February.
The Goddard School, a private facility in Orion, has donated $1,000 and the students there raised another $1,500 through a penny drive. Other large donors include Lakes Community Credit Union and Scott Ockerman State Farm Agency.
The group will be placing signs and flyers in the community showing the Blessings in a Backpack logo and locations to donate money. Green Light Graphics, of Orion, is donating all publishing materials.
Fundraisers later in February will include a "Dine to Donate for a Hungry Child" at local restaurants where portions of sales will be donated to the program.
Locations for the "Dine to Donate" fundraisers are Culvers, Lake Orion DQ/Orange Julius, Broadway Grill, Times Square Deli, G's Pizzeria, Leo's Coney Island and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Haynes said more businesses are signing up to help.
The "Have a Heart - Feed a Child" fundraiser runs February 1st - February 17th. Participating businesses will be displaying "Have a Heart - Feed a Child Donation Station" signs and posters.
Donations can be made at the locations showing the logo. Donations can also be made at all Lake Orion Community Schools offices or online at www.blessingsinabackpackmi.org.
Additionally, in the second half of February, the local restaurants will be hosting "Dine to Donate for a Hungry Child" evenings.
All money raised for the program stays right here in Lake Orion.
Former Leader Editor Dan Shriner will cover Wildcat football this season.