[pullquote_right]Reposted here with permission from The Pioneer Newspaper. Article originally posted by Jonathan Eppley April 24, 2012.[/pullquote_right]Program aims to help at least 25 children at Mecosta Elementary School this fall
MECOSTA — A program that provides backpacks of food to Big Rapids children is expanding to help kids in eastern Mecosta County.
The Angels of Action organization is expanding the coverage area of its Backpack Blessings program to include students at Mecosta Elementary School. A group of volunteers has joined the Big Rapids-based nonprofit and is organizing fundraisers and food drives with the goal of providing backpacks of food to at least 25 children in need this fall.
NEW ANGELS: A group of volunteers on Mecosta County’s east side has partnered with the Big Rapids-based Angels of Action nonprofit to provide backpacks of food to Mecosta Elementary School students in need. Food for the east-side expansion will be stored and loaded into backpacks by students at Mosaic School in Remus. Pictured (from left to right) are Herb Scheneman, Rosanne Sapp, John Ruggles, Sue Ruggles, Mosaic School principal Dawn Hawley, Ardath Stadtfeld, Angels of Action co-founder Joni Thompson and Angels of Action-MEL chair Dave Fisher. (Pioneer photo/Jonathan Eppley)
More than 20 volunteers saw the need in the county’s east side and contacted the Angels about joining their organization. It took several months to finalize the expansion.
“There’s 177 children at Mecosta Elementary, out of about 260 total students, who qualify for the program,” said Dave Fisher, chair of the Angels of Action-MEL, which stands for Mecosta Elementary. “You just need to drive around and you’ll see how much need there is out there. I think the response from this community will be fantastic.”
Students eligible for Backpack Blessings are provided a backpack on Friday filled with enough food to feed them through Monday. Food for the east-side program will be stored at Mosaic School in Remus.
“The students at Mosaic will be packing the backpacks every week along with the help from volunteers,” said Dawn Hawley, Mosaic principal. “My staff is really excited about this program.”
Students who receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch through the schools are eligible for the backpacks of food. The program provides food for children who may not have enough to eat on the weekend.
In Mecosta County, 59.5 percent of K-12 students received free or reduced school lunches in 2010, the most recent year data is available from the Michigan League of Human Services. Osceola County is slightly lower with 59.2 percent of students eating free or reduced-cost meals.
“If we had looked at everything statistically, we would have started out here (in the Mecosta and Remus area) because percentage-wise there is much more need than in Big Rapids,” said Angels co-founder Joni Thompson. “Our goal from the beginning has been to feed all of the children in Mecosta County then move to Osceola County. We started in Big Rapids because that’s where our sphere of influence is and where we could collect the most donations and have the most impact.”
Although financial records for the two programs will be kept separate, the east-side group is operating under the auspices of Angels of Action organization in Big Rapids, not as a separate entity.
Angels of Action-MEL will hold its first fundraiser next month to kickoff the east-side Backpack Blessings program. Its goal is to provide food to at least 25 children in need at Mecosta Elementary School this fall.
When: From 10 a.m. to noon on May 19
Where: Outback Lodge and Equestrian Center, located at 12600 Buchanan Road in Stanwood
Minimum pledge: $25
Register: (231) 972-7255
“We started talking about them becoming Angels a couple months ago. They didn’t want to start their own 501(c)3, so instead of reinventing the wheel they joined our group,” Thompson said. “We wanted to come out to Mecosta anyway, but they’re probably upping our plan to do so by about three years. Using what we’ve already got set in our organization is really going to help them succeed out here.”
The east-side group will hold its first fundraiser on May 19 at Outback Lodge and Equestrian Center. Participants are asked to raise pledges of at least $25 to take part in the Ride-A-Thon event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the ranch, located at 12600 Buchanan Road in Stanwood. Participants can bring their own horse or rent one to ride at the event.
Angels of Action is scheduling multiple food drives and fundraising events throughout the summer to benefit both coverage areas. Donors can sponsor a child for a whole year for $195.
Those wanting to donate funds to the nonprofit can do so online at www.angelsofaction.org, or through the mail at Angels of Action, P.O. Box 1020, Big Rapids, MI 49307, or to Angels of Action-MEL, P.O. Box 114, Mecosta, MI 49332.
For more information about Backpack Blessings, to donate money or make arrangements to donate food, contact Angels of Action at (231) 796-1626.