Backpack blessings

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, VA (WWBT) - In the basement of Colonial Heights Highland United Methodist Church a well organized food assembly operation gears up every Thursday afternoon.

"The point is to provide breakfast and lunch Saturday and Sunday for these needy children," said Miriam Williams. "It's not a church sponsored event. We're not affiliated with anybody."

Just a few friends filling backpacks with food, kid friendly  items for elementary kids like, cereal, cereal bars, meals, juice, pop tarts, raisins, and applesauce.

The Backpack Blessings Program was conceived after the discovery that some Colonial Heights students who get free meals during the school week, went without on weekends, often starting out Monday mornings in the nurse's office.

"They weren't sick. They were hungry," Miriam said.

Miriam says she was stunned.

"I had my snooty nose in the air thinking Colonial Heights was such an affluent county there was no way we had that many children, I was schooled in a big hurry," she explained.

Miriam says she quickly found out the impact something as simple as a cup of fruit can have on a little boy who couldn't wait to get his backpack home.

"He looked at the teacher and said 'peaches! I love peaches. We never get peaches' I thought for a little guy to go over the moon about a cup of peaches, stick a fork in me I was done," Miriam said.

Miriam became a Backpack Blessings booster. The program has grown from 3 students in one school to more than 3 dozen in all three Colonial Heights elementary schools. The free program is runs entirely with donations.

We set off to pass $300 on to the director of Backpack Blessings, lifelong educator Kay Walker. A short drive and we arrive at the church where Kay is expecting her regular crew to help fill bags, not a camera crew.

MIRIAM: "Kay I brought some friends with me, this is Sabrina Squire from Channel 12."
KAY: "I recognize."
MIRIAM: "We are here to thank you for everything you do to help this program. You help us with the money, you send thank you notes, you buy all the groceries when we're out of them - even though we're small, we wouldn't be nearly as big without you. Hold your hand out. $100, $200, $300."

Kay says the cash will fund the program for about a week. Once the bags are packed, she takes inventory of their food stockpile.

"When we run out of items I go shopping, that's what this is for," Kay said.

With the packing phase complete, the book bags are tagged and loaded up in city patrol car. The schools DARE officer makes the special deliveries every week, dropping bags off at each school, every Friday, sending kids home for the weekend with a backpack full of blessings.

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