Laughter could be heard as the door to a back building at Sunset Avenue School swung open, showing off a table laden with food supplies and a half dozen or so Rotary Club members circling the table, arms steady busy packing Ziploc bags.
Member J.W. Simmons was squatted in a corner shifting through small boxes of cereal, individualized to make the packing — and eventually the eating — all the easier.
“Hey J.W., we need some more cereal,” came the call from Dr. Mac Herring, who was serving as captain of the volunteer crew, along with Jean Kunzman, who was busily stacking completed Ziplocs into grocery bags and then filling them in an oversized wagon for transport.
“We’re almost out of applesauce,too” interjected fellow Rotarian Donna Williams as she stalled at the box which should have held the plastic containers.
As quickly as the call went out, supplies were replenished, and the circle of volunteers continued their trek, piling canned spaghetti, applesauce, raisins, cookies and fruit juice into the Ziplocs.
On every fifth Monday, members of the Clinton-Sampson Rotary Club join Kunzman, Herring and sometimes others in preparing Backpack Buddies supplies for children across Clinton City Schools. It is a volunteer effort Rotarians are glad to be a part of, one of the many “service above self” projects they perform during any given year.
“Giving back to our community is important to us, that and reaching out to assist in poverty-stricken areas across the world,” noted Rotarian Ann Butler as she rounded the table once again, stuffing the Ziploc in assembly-line fashion.
And being able to assist Kunzman in a project near and dear to her heart is one of the reasons Rotary members chose to abandon their normal Monday meeting routine and venture out to assist in the packing of food.
“This is a great project and one we are glad to be a part of on every fifth Monday,” noted club president Amanda Bradsaw during a recent Rotary meeting.
Kunzman began the Backpack Buddies program in Clinton City Schools some nine years ago, starting with a handful of volunteers who would work out of her dining room to supply meals to children who, otherwise, might not have gotten solid nutrition on weekends when they were away from school.
The packages are tucked neatly into students’ book bags to avoid embarrassment on Fridays, providing them with nutritious foods that help tide them over until they can return to school on Monday where they will receive lunch and oftentimes breakfast.
Kunzman and First United Methodist Church of Clinton started sustaining the program in Clinton City Schools nine years ago, but the program continues to grow.. Today, with the help of the Clinton-Sampson Rotarians, numerous churches, civic and student groups as well as individuals, the program currently assists in the weekend feeding of over 250 students.
It takes some $500 a week to sustain the growing program.
“It’s a worthwhile project for sure. We’re just glad we can help,” said Jeff Swartz, Child Nutrition Director for Clinton City Schools and a Rotarian. “I see the benefits in the kids.”