Feeding children in need, Backpack Drive!

Aydan Miner, Editor

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Every Friday at 2:30 a few dozen Burlington-Edison high school students travel to West View Elementary to fill backpacks full of food. The project is known as the “Backpack Drive,” and was begun a year ago.

It started at Allen Elementary School when they received a grant due to having the highest number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch in the district.

“David Stritch recognized that even though students were getting food during the week, they weren’t always getting it on the weekend.” said Paul Pihl, Interact club adviser.

The rotary branch in Burlington and the high school’s Interact Club recognized that there were several other schools in need of such a program as well and there began the backpack drive at West View Elementary.

In the beginning, Interact Club student volunteers were loading backpacks primarily for students at West View but over time the program expanded, and now they load approximately one thousand pounds of food each week for West View, Allen, Lucille Umbarger, and Bay View.

After one year of service to Allen Elementary, David Strich left the program to Ryan Walker, a senior at Burlington-Edison High School.

My role in the organization, coordination, and distribution for Allen Elementary’s backpack food drive program began at the start of my junior year,” said Walker. “I was on the hunt for a volunteering opportunity that would genuinely make a change in my community, which is when I met Dave Strich.”

Strich was on the verge of retiring from the program, and Ryan was there to take his place.

At the start of his year, I was determined to continue the program and maintain its promising longevity after I continue my education at college. This is when I partnered with Rotary and Interact Club to expand the program in our district.”

Ryan and his family arrive at West View every Friday to load the Allen Elementary specified bags, they pack them into the car and then transport the backpacks to the cafeteria at Allen for student pick up.

Without a doubt, my favorite part about being involved with this amazing program are the smiles on the kids’ faces when I hand them their backpack, and the occasional hug.” said Walker.

Jerry and Nancy Ellis,  the two Rotary advisers for the Interact Club at Burlington-Edison High School, run the behind the scenes action to keep the backpack drive running smoothly. Jerry contacts the food bank and specifies which items we need, and then plans the transportation to West View and back.

The Rotary branch in Burlington, Wash is involved with a variety of community service projects in our area, including being a direct sponsor of Interact Club at the local high schools.

“To see the faces of the kids, all smiles, walking into to get their backpack, and these kids are very happy to get some food. It really opened my eyes as to the real need there is. We don’t think about not having enough food for the weekend, but you see this, and it is really alarming.” says Nancy Ellis, a member by association of her husband Jerry Ellis who will be the Rotary president starting July 2017.

“In today’s world volunteerism is requested and more people need to volunteer, we know the what and the how, but we don’t know why, we need to get that message out. That’s the message I will continue to try to sell, why we do it. We want to address the issues and assume we are making a difference and feel that we are. Just have to push forward.” said Ellis.

President of Interact Club, Erik Michel runs the weekly meetings and strategically plans the backpack drive to the best of his ability. “My favorite part of interact club, is that I enjoy spending time with the people, and being involved in the backpack program, which is awesome, I can’t believe it’s gotten to where it is now.”

Erik began attending Interact Club meetings over a year ago, and was invited by a peer in one of his classes.

“I was already really involved with the club, it wasn’t big at the time, I saw it as an opportunity to help the club grow.”

“Braden Dunn was in my math class at the time and he told me to stop by, and I really liked how they were setting up community service projects.”

All of the clubs at Burlington-Edison High School are open to everyone. All you have to do is find out when the group gathers, and then show up. Often times, club meeting dates are posted on various social media sites held by faculty, or are listed on the daily announcements.

Currently, there are ten active members who attend the Interact Club meetings every Tuesday directly after school. As Erik touched on earlier, the club started very small and has quickly expanded, which is good for the elementary school students who benefit from the backpack drive each week.

Burlington-Edison high school students are encouraged to involve themselves in community service, in fact, they are required to by their advisory class. Each student is required to volunteer for two hours each semester.

Interact Club and the volunteers working on the backpack drive are in the process of making change by shedding light on a widespread issue in our community, and giving children and their families an additional sense of security.

“Develop your passion to make change and move forward,” said Ellis.

1 Comment

One Response to “Feeding children in need, Backpack Drive!”

  1. David Strich on February 14th, 2017 11:38 am

    It makes me happy to read this article. What a great collaboration between high school students, community organizations, volunteers, and district employees. This is a well written article that accurately describes much of what this backpack program was, is, and has become. Thank you for reporting about it.
    David Strich

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Feeding children in need, Backpack Drive!