MORRISBURG – When they organized the Operation Backpack Tea held on Sunday, April 7, at the Morrisburg Legion, Gail McCooeye, members of the Hope Springs United Church, and the House of Lazarus had hopes that the event might raise $5,000.
Instead, they were overwhelmed by the generosity of those who came out to support their fundraiser. Operation Backpack raised just over $10,000.
Operation Backpack, which operates locally through the House of Lazarus, is a concept that Cathy Ashby, the executive director of House of Lazarus, learned about at a recent provincial Food Bank conference.
“We learned there is an ongoing need to provide extra food for some children over the weekend,” Cathy explained. “Operation Backpack sends a child home from school with enough nutritious food to support him through the weekend.”
Typically, the norm is for some 10 to 20 kids in an individual school to need this extra food.
However, Ashby delivered a shocking piece of information to the people in attendance at the South Dundas event.
“In South Dundas, in one school alone, 82 children are in need of these extra food supplies. They need this food every weekend,” she said.
Operation Backpack, an outreach program through the House of Lazarus, has tried to step into this area of need by purchasing weekend food, arranging for volunteers to pack the backpacks and by seeing that volunteers deliver everything to the schools in time for the end of the Friday school day.
Teachers and principals are often the ones who recognize that some of their children are going hungry for nearly 48 hours.
“Three local principals brought it to our attention that there are still children in our community who are in need and go hungry,” said event MC Dr. Wayne Domanko. “Today we are opening our hearts, yes, and our wallets, to help these children who are in no way responsible for the situation in which they find themselves. It is easy to sense the aura of positive and compassionate energy in this community.”
The Backpack project began locally in January, 2019.
Although Operation Backpack receives some limited funding from Feed Ontario, the Provincial Food Bank Association, money to keep the project going is crucially needed.
The demand for Operation Backpack was a cause that Gail McCooeye, Hope Springs United Church, the House of Lazarus and many generous individuals in this area hoped to address though Sunday’s special tea.
Hostesses and hosts decorated beautiful tables in the Legion in a variety of exciting and colourful themes, also providing tableware and cutlery. They served up stunning and very delicious desserts to their guests. Individuals, area churches, some businesses and local organizations booked 27 tables in the Hall.
“The tables were all amazing and really creative,” said Gail McCooeye. “They were very impressive.”
There were also silent and live auctions, with items generously donated by area businesses and many individuals.
The dynamic group, River City Junction, provided outstanding music for the afternoon.
Organizers of the 2019 Operation Backpack Tea were delighted with the turn-out, and thanked this community for its outstanding generosity and care for others.