Weekend Backpack program keeps kids fed

October 15, 2020
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By Amanda Rogers

Mansfield Record


After a COVID-fueled hiatus, volunteers have returned to stuff bags of food for kids in the Mansfield ISD.

Common Ground’s Weekend Backpack Program began sending home food for kids in need a dozen years ago, and the program had grown every year. TheCOVID-19 pandemic shut them down in March, but the group started again Sept. 9,with 20 volunteers packing 340 bags of food each week at the Mansfield Cares Warehouse, 150 S. 6th Ave.

“We’re down from last year, fewer bags,” said Kay Klenzendorf,who founded the program with a friend in her garage in 2008. “We had 412 bags when we had to stop last year. Jennifer Powers, the director of counseling for Mansfield ISD, told us to expect 45 percent less in attendance.”

Those missing kids are the ones that Klenzendorf is worried about.

“We need to know how many kids who are staying home doing virtual that need bags,” she said. “That’s a concern for everybody. We know there are kids that are not getting served. We just haven’t been able to figure it out.”

Volunteers pack individual servings of Chef Boyardee and cereal, oatmeal packets, granola bars, ramen and fruit cups – two breakfasts, a pair of entries and a couple of snacks – to get kids through the weekend. Then drivers from sponsoring churches pick up the bags and deliver them to 19 schools in the program.

Nine churches – First United Methodist Church, Bethlehem Baptist, Walnut Ridge Baptist, First Baptist Church, Mansfield Bible Church, St. Jude’s Catholic Church, The Community at Lake Ridge, Creekwood Church and Mansfield Church of Christ – sponsor individual schools, paying for the food that goes in the bag. Rush Creek Mansfield sponsors even more schools with their own program and also donates to Common Ground’s Weekend Backpack.

Another 60 bags go to the South Arlington Estates trailer park, which is located in the Mansfield ISD.

“We were doing them during the summer Feed the Kids and the driver said they need it,” explained Suzy Herrmann, who is with Common Ground.

The Weekend Backpack program runs until the end of May when Common Grounds’ Feed the Kids picks up for the summer, Klenzendorf said.

“There’s more need here than anyone realizes,” Klenzendorf said. “Out of abundance, we have been able to share. I think this community has a lot of abundance. There are kids that have needs. Look at all the kids that go through H.I.M. (Harvesting In Mansfield Center food pantry).”

Members of the Mansfield ISD Key Clubs come in to volunteer, but have been limited to once a month this year, due to COVID, Klenzendorf said.

“They love coming out here,” said Mansfield High Key Club sponsor Corey Nieman. “We also have donated money and fund raised so they get to see where the money goes.

“It’s good for them to see,” Nieman said. “Every time we’re here, we talk about how many kids go home hungry. They see the need is there and what they’re doing is helping.”

To volunteer, contact Vicky Hale at vickyh@fmcm.org. To donate, go to commongroundmansfield.org or mail to Common Ground, P.O. Box 1049, Mansfield, TX 76063.

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