Friends of Lake Redwine partner with Backpack Buddies

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Recently, one of Lake Redwine’s residents saw a need to provide additional food for Newnan High School teens. Students were coming to school hungry, and for various reasons, parents wouldn’t sign the forms to have them placed on the free or reduced lunch program, and the students couldn’t afford to purchase breakfast or lunch at school.

On most days, these same students might not have food to eat when at home. To help bridge that gap, a Lake Redwine resident’s family provided food items to Communities In Schools Coordinator Jenille Edwards to pass along to those students during the week. The resident learned that Newnan High School was partnering with Backpack Buddies to send food home on the weekends to 40 students, a number that has since turned into 115. When the resident found out about this need, she quickly turned to the Lake Redwine Moms Group, and without hesitation, a group of 20 moms held an organizational meeting and decided to help tackle this issue.

Pictured are, from left, Samantha King, Kevin King, Allie Knight, Kathy Knight, Lauren Bollinger, Phillip Kearns, Brooke DePoi, Barb DePoi, Julie Buie Williams, Phyllis Shrader, Mary Ann Folk, Maryann Howell, Patty Kearns. Not pictured but participating in packing that evening were Kara and Gavin Miles and Ginger Queener.

“Coweta has a heart of service, and that has been proven many times over, almost daily. When I reached out to my fellow neighbors to see if we wanted to take this on, it didn’t surprise me that almost immediately, I was hearing the words ‘Sign me up!’” said Ginger Queener, organizer of the Friends of Lake Redwine group now working on this project. “Without hesitation, people immediately stepped up and were excited to help the children who need us most in our community.” 

At the initial meeting, the group decided to construct the “teen dream pack,” which consists of more food items than the normal pack because teens just need more. At their organizational meeting, Edwards spoke about the food insecurities of students at Newnan High School.

“The impact made on our students through Backpack Buddies has been tremendous,” Edwards said. “Our students look forward to receiving their weekend bags and feel a sense of food security knowing they will have snacks and small meals going into the weekend. Many of our students know that food is limited in their households and often go hungry. With Backpack Buddies, our students no longer have to worry where their next meal is going to come from over the weekend. These weekend bags not only impact our students but their parents as well, giving them comfort and the extra support in knowing their child will not go hungry over the weekend, school breaks, and holidays.”

With the HOA board agreeing to donate the use of the clubhouse, the moms’ group decided to initially tackle 40 of the students by packing food once a month and decided to begin in November. The first packing was held November 6, and not only the moms but also spouses and children came to pack. From setup to cleanup, the packing took less than an hour, and with a small investment from several families, 40 children’s lives will be impacted with just the first pack night in Lake Redwine. Since the first packing was so successful, the group decided to increase their investment and begin packing for 80 once a month beginning in December.

The group of moms who came together also wanted to offer the opportunity for families to participate, so they included spouses and children. In addition, it was decided that the group would offer service  hours for the children of the neighborhood since they have several Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Beta Club members, and students who need service hours as a part of their school curriculum.

“Backpack Buddies serves such an important need in our community. I am so proud to live in a neighborhood that cares about all children and is willing to step up and make a difference. The giving spirit of the Lake Redwine residents is amazing,” said Kathy Knight, chairman of the Lake Redwine Social Committee and one of the initial organizing moms.

Backpack Buddies is currently serving over 700 students on a weekly basis. They recently moved from their Sharpsburg location to their larger facility on Werz Boulevard, which has allowed them to expand.

“Lake Redwine is the first neighborhood to step up and hold packing nights in their community. It is one of our goals to have other neighborhoods do the same,” said Lori Burnett, executive director of Backpack Buddies. “It doesn’t have to be large scale. You can start small. Also, it doesn’t have to happen at your clubhouse. Your community can come to Backpack Buddies, or someone can hold a packing event in their home. We will work with you to make it happen.”

Should your community wish to host a packing night, or if you would like to be a Backpack Buddies Partner, please contact Lori Burnett at (678) 770-8618 or e-mail her at [email protected]

Backpack Buddies is a 501(c)3 organization located in Newnan, Georgia and serves students in the Coweta County School System. For more information on Backpack Buddies, please visit their website at www.backpackbuddiesga.org.

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