Helena Belles provide meal security through Backpack Buddies program

Published 3:10 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2021

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By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

HELENA – The Helena Belles are always a highlight in the Helena community. The group of young girls who devote their time and efforts into making the community a brighter place are always welcomed with open arms at Helena events. In the past two years, the Belles have taken part in a special program called the Backpack Buddies, which provides weekend meals to food insecure children in the Shelby County community.

President of the Helena Belles, Christie Glawson, said it’s programs like Backpack Buddies that are what the Belles are all about: giving back to the community.

“Our efforts are going directly back to our schools in Shelby County and in Helena,” she said. “I feel like it’s close to home, and it’s good to be able to positively impact something that you know is in your backyard.”

The Backpack Buddies program is run by Vineyard Family Services out of Pelham. The program provides grocery bags of food to students in Shelby County schools. Through events called “packing parties,” volunteers like the Helena Belles pack grocery bags filled with food, then deliver them to students in Shelby County schools for the students to take home for the weekend.

The Helena Belles chose the program two years ago for their fundraiser person of the year, and they’ve continued to work with the program ever since.

“We do a powder puff game every year, and the funds we raise from that go to whatever organization was picked that year,” Glawson explained. “So, two years ago they picked the Backpack Buddies program, and we ended up keeping it up.”

In the past two years, the powder puff has totaled $4,710, but that’s not where their donations have stopped.  Last August, the Belles held a food drive where they collected 1,240 boxes of food. “We filled the entire van with the amount of food we collected,” Glawson said.

Needless to say, the Belles love the program, and volunteer participation has skyrocketed since starting the Backpack program.

“We’ve had over 20 girls sign up for our upcoming packing party on October 2,” Glawson said. “They love the packing parties.”

Glawson said the best part of the program is the feeling of “giving back to our community,” which is the backbone of the Helena Belles program. This year, they also made goodie bags and cards to go to the local nursing homes on Valentine’s Day, and they also did care card drives where they made cards for people undergoing cancer treatment.

Last September, Vineyard Family Services presented the Helena Belles with the Volunteer of the Year award. Glawson said the girls are just happy to represent the community in a caring and giving way.

“I think the girls serve as positive role models in the community, and community service should be a big part of the growing up experience,” she said. “It’s important to show the younger generation what it is to give back.”

The next packing party for the Backpack Buddies program is Oct. 2 from 9-10 a.m. at 2834 Pelham Parkway.