While Anna Roller helped pack food in Rapid City for Feeding South Dakota’s BackPack program, she didn’t view the activity as an abstract exercise.
“A few friends are using it,” said Anna, who is 13. “I love seeing them go home knowing that I helped pack some of their (food).”
About 20 people were helping with work on Monday morning, and organizers were expecting about 40 volunteers throughout the day’s two shifts. Their service was part of Feeding South Dakota’s “Bring Your Child to Serve” day, scheduled to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The event was designed to open the door to young volunteers with the hope that they will return.
“It’s a way to highlight the opportunity for kids 11 and up to volunteer for us not just today but any day,” said Megan Kjose, director of development for Feeding South Dakota. , in the Journal last week.
Lori Dykstra, CEO of Feeding South Dakota, said in a statement that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was “a great opportunity for families to volunteer together.” A Feeding South Dakota press release also observed “the importance of … bringing to life Dr. King’s vision of neighbors working together to build a better future.”
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This is the first time Feeding South Dakota has hosted a “Bring Your Child to Serve” day.
Patrick Bierle, distribution center coordinator for Feeding South Dakota, said Monday that the organization currently packs about 1,400 bags a week in western South Dakota for the BackPack program. As explained on the Feeding South Dakota website, the program provides food for children to take home on weekends and holidays – an essential supplement to the food they receive at school. .
Bierle noted several sources of donations received by Feeding South Dakota, including both financial and food. The organization also receives food from the emergency food aid program, he said, run by the US Department of Agriculture.
“We accept all food donations, and everything is put to good use,” Bierle said. But he also noted that Feeding South Dakota can make particularly effective use of financial donations.
“Bring your child to serve the day” comes after the holiday season — a time when donations tend to slow down a bit, Bierle explained.
Bierle also noted that the presence of young volunteers creates an opportunity for additional hunger education in the community.
“They may not know the issues that people are facing, and it will give them insight into what we do and who we do it for,” he said, speaking in the distribution center Rapid City of Feeding South Dakota.
A few yards away, a gathering of volunteers were working quickly, sorting cereal, milk, fruit, soup, vegetables and other items and placing them into packages. A combination of children and adults synchronized their work along a kind of assembly line, aiming to pack 2,000 bags – with the help of another team of volunteers – by the end of the day.
Jessica Owczarek has come to volunteer with Feeding South Dakota a few times, first at the request of a friend.
“I love being able to provide the community with the food they need,” she said. “But also, the assembly line thing is kind of fun.”
His daughter, Evalynn Owczarek, was looking forward to accompanying him on Monday.
“I wanted to see what it was about, and I also wanted to help all the kids who didn’t have food because it made me really sad to think of them,” said Evalynn, who is 11. “It makes me happy that we’re doing this for them.
On the other end of the line was Anna’s mother, Cary Combs. A teacher at Robbinsdale Elementary School in Rapid City, Combs said she was particularly drawn to the BackPack program because she sees firsthand the difference work makes. Along with the other adults who served, she was happy to be able to make helping a kind of family effort.
“Our kids benefit from where I work,” Combs said. “I love helping out with that, and it’s nice to be able to do it with the whole family. I have my three children here.
People can contact Feeding South Dakota by calling 605-348-2689 in Rapid City or by visiting the organization’s main website at https://feedingsouthdakota.org/.