By LISA CAPOBIANCO
For the past 14 years, volunteers at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church have formed an assembly line to fill backpacks for Bristol students in need.
This year, volunteers filled over 160 backpacks, which were distributed to Bristol families last Tuesday at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Meals for the Needy. From notebooks and binders to calculators to markers and pens, the backpacks were filled with a variety of school supplies according to grade level, so each child has all the classroom tools they need. The program supports Bristol students in grades K through 12 as well as Pre-K. After receiving their backpacks, these children write thank you notes to church volunteers.
“It’s a nice way to send the kids off to school,” said Cheryl Yetke, director of Meals for the Needy. “There is a lot of hard work and effort going into doing this.”
Besides MFN, volunteers also donated backpacks to Our Piece of the Pie in Hartford.
Since the program’s inception, Gloria Dei has estimated that a total of over 2,100 backpacks have been donated to children in need.
“The need is there,” said Yetke.
This year, over two dozen volunteers of all ages took part in the program. Other volunteers, including Laurie Marrero and Kathy Madden, looked forward to seeing the look on children’s faces when they received their backpacks last week.
“To see a child smiling is everything,” said Marrero.
“The kids are really excited,” added Madden.
Operating since 1982, MFN serves meals on evenings from Monday through Thursday and distributes groceries to families. Bristol’s oldest soup kitchen also offers an emergency food pantry and clothing—in addition to turkey baskets for Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner and Easter dinner.
“On average we have 85 to 100 people per night for dinner. We help about 100-plus families per month with food,” said Yetke.
For MFN, the backpack program marks the kick-off to an entire season of giving. On Friday, Oct. 6, MFN will host its 3rd Annual Harvest Wine Tasting from 6 to 9 p.m. at Chippanee Country Club. The fundraiser will feature over 15 different wines and hors d’oeuvres as well as a silent auction and live entertainment.
Proceeds of the event will allow MFN to continue to help community members in need.
“We’re looking forward to being able to meet our goals,” said Yetke.