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Berkeley County BackPack Program keeps students from going hungry

The weekly, year-round project joined dozens of other community outreach activities that were part of the Eastern Panhandle's 19th Day of Caring

September 10, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Joan Woody, along with others with the Berkeley County BackPack Program, places a bag of food items into a bag.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. — Dollie Wendel didn’t know how many children in the community might be feeling the pangs of hunger until she began volunteering with the Berkeley County BackPack Program.

“I didn’t realize it was this bad until I came here to help,” Wendel said Tuesday morning at Hedgesville Church.

Wendel is among a group of volunteers who come together each week to sort and package bags of groceries for hundreds of school-age children in need in Berkeley County.

The nonperishable food bagged Tuesday was for 417 students from Berkeley County Schools to eat this coming weekend, said Jennifer Yeater, president of the county BackPack Program.

When the effort started three years ago, the nonprofit program provided food to 36 students at one school and quickly outgrew the assembly line-like operation’s original location, Yeater said.

“They graciously opened their doors to us,” Yeater said of the church’s support.

For the first time, the weekly, year-round project joined dozens of other community outreach activities that were held Tuesday as part of the Eastern Panhandle’s 19th Day of Caring.

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Among those volunteering for Day of Caring were Jamie Morgan of Hedgesville, W.Va., and Jennifer Warrenfeltz of Hagerstown, who work at the Sprint store along Maugans Avenue.

Morgan, the store’s assistant manager, said they had been looking for ways to get involved and help out in the community.

“I want to bring my two older children here to help so they understand the importance of doing things like this,” Morgan said. 

Melissa Derby, who coordinates fundraising activities, said the group is holding a charity golf tournament on May 5, 2014, at The Woods resort near Hedgesville as part of ongoing fundraising efforts.

“Our biggest need is community support,” Derby said.

It costs about $20 per month, per child to cover the food costs, according to the organization.

All donations benefit children in need in Berkeley County, and the organization is all-volunteer, Derby said.

“All we are about is these kids having food in their stomachs,” Derby said.

The county’s program, which is affiliated with the Feeding America BackPack Program, started as a concept in the 1990s.

“Having healthy meals provided over the weekend not only nourishes their bodies but provides fuel for their overall educational performance. A child with more energy and better health will obviously have a better learning experience,” county schools spokeswoman Elaine Bobo said in an email.

More information about the program is available at http://feedbcwvkids.org/

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