Hundreds turn out for food bank's Party for the Good

Sunday, October 7, 2012
Members of the Southeast Missouri State University gymnastics team seal bags filled with food for the Southeast Missouri Food Bank during the Party for the Good event Sept. 7 at the Osage Centre in Cape Girardeau. Several shifts of volunteers from around the area filled the bags that will be used for the BackPacks for Friday program. (ADAM VOGLER)

On my honor, I will try:

To serve God and my country,

To help people at all times, and

Attend the Party for the Good ?

By Karen Green

Helping people is pretty commonplace around here. It is not just a part of the Girl Scout creed but a lifestyle for many Southeast Missourians.

More than 800 individuals, including many area Girl Scout troops, demonstrated that helping is indeed a big part of who we are and what we do as the Southeast Missouri Food Bank held its second annual Party for the Good at the Osage Centre in Cape Girardeau on Sept. 7.

More than 10,000 backpacks were packed for students in the region who do not know where their next meal will come from. The food will provide first semester distributions for the 2012-2013 school year for the 799 kids who participate in the BackPacks for Friday program in 42 schools in Southeast Missouri.

The BackPacks for Friday program works to fulfill a basic need: food.

Girl Scouts participate in the Party for the Good event.
Jay Wolz
Submitted photo

Eligible students receive free meals at school, but weekends are another matter. That's where the BackPack program comes in. We partner with elementary schools and community organizations to send backpacks full of nutritious food home with the poorest students.

More than 21,000 children in Southeast Missouri struggle with hunger, and the BackPacks for Friday program does make a difference.

One little boy in the fourth grade at a Cape Girardeau school told his teacher that he really appreciated the backpack, because he was the "man of the house" and was proud to be helping his momma by bringing the food home. This little boy's momma had been trying to support her family by working two jobs, but there still just wasn't enough food to go around.

Momma would usually say she wasn't hungry so her children would have more to eat. Thanks to the BackPacks for Friday program they have the extra food they need so everyone can eat, and momma calls those who support this program "her angels."

This program means so much to the children and families we serve. No child should have to worry about where their next meal will come from. A problem such as hunger can only be tackled if the community comes to together like they did at Party for the Good.

The Cape Roller Girls returned this year as well as many sorority groups. The university's gymnastics team and the Sundancers were there. The Sundancers also provided entertainment during the event and energized the crowd. The Black Collegiate Club came and the United Way SEMO Campus members showed up again this year, too.

Representatives were there from the many school districts served by the BackPacks for Friday program. Aaron Burton from Neelyville schools, Leanna Kinder from Southeast Elementary in Sikeston, Jamie Jones from Jefferson Elementary in Cape Girardeau and Mary Lewelling, representing Pemiscot County serving Hayti and Caruthersville schools, have seen the faces of the kids served by BackPacks for Friday and know they need help from the community.

Church folks came from all around to pitch in, and so did some who work in the health care industry. The church folks know Jesus loves the little children and he wants us to take care of them. Those who work in health care know that if these kids don't get nutritious food they can't learn and grow like they need to and get a proper start on life.

Corporations encouraged their employees to participate. Bankers, retailers and manufacturers were among the crowd. There may even have been a butcher, baker or a candlestick maker in the multitude. Charter Media provided funding as primary sponsor of the community event and their "Good Neighbor" group was there in force.

Southeast Hospital's Carolyn Pickens, center, restocks a stack of canned chili as other volunteers fill bags with food for the Southeast Missouri Food Bank during the Party for the Good event Sept. 7 at the Osage Centre.
ADAM VOGLER
avogler@semissourian.com

Aktion was there. I learned that day that they are a very special group of adults who live life with challenges and don't let that get in the way of making a positive difference in the community, which they certainly did that night.

Lots of families came together volunteering, creating meaningful lasting memories to share with their loved ones.

Ann Cunningham, a regular volunteer at Southeast Missouri Food Bank, was there with her husband and told me, "I know that what we do here together really matters, it improves lives."

Jay Wolz comes to take photographs at the "party" while his wife helps with the packing.

"When you look at my photos you will see lots of smiles here, people know they are doing something special," Wolz said. "Something significant."

So it seems the Party for the Good really is mostly about the good. Helping one another makes us feel good no matter who we are, where we work or what we believe; we know we have to come together for those less fortunate in our community.

So I want to invite more community members to come to our "Party" next year and do it for the "Good."

Karen Green is the executive director of the Southeast Missouri Food Bank.

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