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Blessings in a Backpack to expand to Leonard

Beginning in the fall, Blessings in a Backpack volunteers will be packing food for Leonard kids. (click for larger version)
April 09, 2014 - Oxford's Blessings in a Backpack (BIB) is going to expand its reach from one to two schools beginning this September.

Leonard Elementary is set to join Lakeville Elementary in the program that provides free food to students who are in the government-subsidized free or reduced hot lunch program, according to Cheryl Verbeke, chairperson of Oxford BIB.

"It's a needed program," she said. "Statistics show it improves attendance and it improves test scores. So, it's all good for the community – it's all good for the kids."

BIB is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help meet the nutritional needs of children and families.

Every Friday, volunteers distribute backpacks filled with enough non-perishable food items to feed eligible students for the weekend. Items include things such as juice boxes, granola bars, canned tuna or chicken, cereal, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, instant oatmeal and packets of soup.

"It's the right thing to do," Verbeke said. "Nobody wants to see a child go hungry in our community."

The contents of every backpack are identical each week.

"I need to be fair to everyone and give everyone the same thing," Verbeke said.

Oxford BIB currently feeds 63 students per week at Lakeville Elementary.

"It's very rewarding," Verbeke said.

Part of the reason the program will be able to expand to Leonard in the fall is the successful bowling fund-raiser it held March 30 at Collier Lanes in Oxford. More than 100 folks attended the event, which generated approximately $3,500.

"All the money stays in the community," Verbeke said. "Any money we raise in Oxford stays in our schools to support our kids, our neighbors and our friends."

Verbeke said it costs $100 annually to feed each child in the Oxford BIB program.

Meijer sells food to Oxford BIB at or below cost.

"We're constantly fund-raising," she said.

Even though the Oxford BIB program was approved in August 2012, it didn't start distributing food to Lakeville students until October 2013.

"It took us a year of fund-raising to have enough money to start the program," Verbeke explained.

Verbeke said Oxford BIB is hoping to add Clear Lake Elementary to the program in 2015.

"It depends on how smoothly Leonard goes and how our fund-raising goes," she noted.

Those interested in making a financial contribution to Oxford BIB can send a check or money order to the North Woodward Community Foundation (NWCF)/Blessings in a Backpack Oxford, 1120 E. Long Lake Rd. Ste. 205, Troy, MI 48085.

Donations are tax-deductible.

In addition to funds, Oxford BIB is always looking for more volunteers.

Every Wednesday, volunteers meet at JP's Piano Moving (78 N. Washington St.) in downtown Oxford to load the backpacks with food for distribution on Friday.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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