Garner Back Pack Buddies

Back Pack Buddies Partner Organizations

The Garner Back Pack Buddies Program began over seven years ago by the Garner Mid-Day Rotary Club after an elementary school social worker shared the need to help feed homeless students who relied on school meals for most of their nutrition. The club partnered with parishioners from Lord of Life Lutheran Church, where the club met at the time, to purchase food and pack meals using funds the club raised.

The program began at two schools and has now grown to serve seven elementary schools in Garner. Up to twenty children at each school receive a weekly bag of food each Friday to ensure they will not go hungry over the weekend. A team of volunteers, many retired teachers who know the need first-hand, shop monthly to stock a pantry at one of the schools and meet weekly to pack bags and distribute them to the other schools. Over 2,200 meals were provided during the 2015-2016 school year. 

During the 2015-2016 school year, Rotarians, volunteers and school staff worked to develop a plan to continue assistance to families during times school is not in session. In June 2016, a new initiative was launched to provide eight weeks of meals for traditional calendar families to help them through the summer break. Year-round calendar families will be provided with three weeks of meals to help them through the quarterly track-out breaks beginning July 2016.

A unique partnership has been developed by the Back Pack Buddies team to engage adults with disabilities to help with shopping, storage, packing and distribution of meals as a part vocational training and life-experience opportunities. The group is partnering with Able to Serve, a Garner-based non-profit organization whose mission is to “give abilities a chance.” Able to Serve participants have assisted with shopping and preparing for the first summer break deliveries. Recently, the food pantry has been moved from the limited space at one of the schools to Able to Serve’s facilities.

Funding for the Back Pack Buddies Program is provided by the Garner Mid-Day Rotary Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, through their annual The Bling Gala. The black-tie optional gala includes a cocktail hour with live music, gourmet dinner, silent and live auctions and dancing.

Operational costs of the event are covered exclusively by ticket purchases and supplemented by in-kind donations of products and services by several providers. “It is important to our committee that one hundred percent of the cash contributions from sponsors and attendees goes directly to the programs we support” said gala committee chairperson Crystal Dempsey. “This model has been an important part of our ability to grow attendance and triple our fundraising over the past four years.”

The 2015 Gala raised over $55,000 to support Back Pack Buddies and local student scholarships. The date for the eighth-annual 2016 Gala has been set for Saturday, November 19, 2016. For more information about the Gala, click the logo below.