Residents participate in BackPack Buddies packing party
Published 2:04 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2015
By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer
PELHAM— It’s typical to find dozens of volunteers from local churches and resident groups at the Servpro in Pelham the first Saturday of every month. People of all ages, from young children to seniors, gather together to pack backpacks full of food to distribute through the 14 schools Vineyard Family Services serves.
“The foundation of our program is to combat the father absence in the community,” said Stephanie Grissom. “Everything that we do is about giving a better outcome for the kids.”
The Dec. 5 packing party was a special one for a few reasons, according to Grissom. She explained that one of the reasons was that several area food drives resulted in enough donations to save Vineyard Family Services all of its December food expenses.
Being so close to Christmas, Grissom said that the volunteers also donated hundreds of stuffed stockings for the children served by VFS’s BackPack Buddies Program and Church of the Highlands donated Give Hope gift bags for 150 children.
“By them all coming, that saves us time and labor,” Grissom said. “We always will have a kid activity too that’s serving, like this time we did the Christmas stockings. They stuffed them and made Christmas cards.”
VFS, along with over 15 sponsors, feeds 700 children weekly throughout the school year through its community BackPack Buddies program. This program started in 2009 when Ward Williams notices there were many single-family homes in poverty as a result of fathers leaving.
He started the program in two schools and the program has extended to 26 in the Shelby County, Alabaster and Pelham school districts. Fourteen schools are served by VFS, sponsored in part by the Jr. League of Birmingham and the Walmart Foundation, and other sponsors serve the other 12.
With a large base of volunteers from Church of the Highlands Riverchase and New Mount Moriah Baptist Church of Calera, among others, the packing parties prepare bags for the entire month.
“When kids feel connected to their school and feel that someone is noticing they need food and other items like hygiene, it makes them want to come to school,” Grissom said. “It gives them a weekly connection to their guidance counselor so it makes him or her more aware of their other needs.”