Backpacks of blessings helps local children have food to eat on the weekends

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Sweetwater Principal Deb Follman, Sara Schwanke LRSC student volunteer, Parker Hoey DLHS volunteer, Laura McLaurin, School Counselor were all smiles Tuesday morning as they received a check from Walmart for $25,000 to help fund the Blessings in a Backpack program at area schools. Handing them the check are Walmart shift manager Randy Johnson and Walmart Asset Protection Manager Eric Lawson.

Starting Monday morning and throughout the school week students in the Devils Lake Public School system have  breakfasts, snacks and lunches at the school. Many children are provided these meals at free or reduced rates because of their finanical situation at home.

But what about on the weekends?

A number of youngsters go hungry from 3 p.m. Friday, when school gets out, until 8 a.m. Monday morning, when it resumes. That’s a long time to go with an empty stomach.

Blessings in a Backpack was created to help bridge that gap to provide food for children in need on days when there is no hot lunch available - the weekend.

Begun two years ago when individuals from the Grand Forks Air Force Base learned of the need, purchased and delivered bags filled with groceries to Sweetwater School to divide up and distribute as needed to the elementary schools in Devils Lake.

Last year funds were considerably tighter, according to Dr. Deb Follman, principal of Sweetwater Elementary School. The local Salvation Army helped out, but still they could help only those children who were in the most need.

Walmart comes to the rescue

On Tuesday, Sept. 30 Randy Johnson, one of the managers at the Walmart in Devils Lake, presented a check for $25,000 to Follman to help Blessings in a Backpack.

Accompanying Follman at the presentation was school counselor Laura McLaurin who oversees the sorting and distribution of the donated food, each and every week.

With them were faithful volunteers Sara Schwanke,  LRSC student and Parker Hoey, DLHS student, who help McLaurin sort and box up the 250 bags of food they receive each week for the children. Each young volunteer gives two hours a day, two days a week to the project that helps children from Kindergarten through grade six bring home something to eat for the weekend.

Follman told the Journal that she wanted to make sure to acknowledge the individuals from the Grand Forks Air Force Base who continue to purchase the food and transport it to Devils Lake for Blessings in a Backpack, each and every week, without fail. The money received Tuesday will go to purchase that food and will help ensure the program will continue feeding children in need right here in this community, as long as the help is needed.