Volunteers with the Junior League of Birmingham work to pack 160 bags to deliver to schools in Alabaster and Montevallo on Oct. 29. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)
Volunteers with the Junior League of Birmingham work to pack 160 bags to deliver to schools in Alabaster and Montevallo on Oct. 29. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Donation, volunteers feed 75 kids in need

Published 12:37pm Tuesday, October 29, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The student center at Inverness Vineyard Church was a flurry of shopping bags, canned food and smiles on Oct. 29 as about a dozen volunteers rushed to help local kids who may not know where their next meal is coming from.

“We always say Backpack Buddies is a community-supported program, because it really is,” Vineyard Family Services Program Coordinator Stephanie Grissom said with a smile. “We are immensely grateful for this.”

Through its Backpack Buddies program, Vineyard Family Services works to provide weekend and summer food for Shelby County students on the free and reduced-price lunch program.

For the third straight year, the Junior League of Birmingham donated time and about $17,000 to help support the Backpack Buddies program in Alabaster’s Creek View and Meadow View Elementary schools and Montevallo Middle School.

Because Vineyard Family Services is not funded by United Way, Grissom said the Backpack Buddies program is dependent on donors such as the Junior League.

“This is so huge for us,” Grissom said as the Junior League volunteers worked to fill 160 food bags and pack them in boxes to deliver to the schools. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to serve these 75 kids.”

With the help of donors such as the Junior League and several other churches and private donors, Backpack Buddies now provides food to 450 children every week in 21 Shelby County and Alabaster schools, Grissom said.

For Junior League volunteer Leigh Ann Smyth, the flurry of activity at Inverness Vineyard Church on Oct. 29 was easily worth it.

“This is one of my favorite events we do,” Smyth said. “It’s good to know that we are helping children who may not have anything to eat otherwise.”

Vineyard Family Services also is looking to expand its offerings and add a van to help deliver food to the schools.

“The church has been so generous to give us rent-free, utility-free space, but we have just outgrown it,” Grissom said, noting the van and new spaces are long-term plans for the organization. “We are looking for a place to allow us to expand our pantry and serve even more kids.”

For more information about Vineyard Family Services, visit Vfsdads.com.

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