31 backpacks helping more children

HANCOCK – Laurel Maki is pleased with the fact the 31 Backpacks program is growing, because it means more children who may otherwise go hungry on the weekends are being fed.

Thursday evening, some members of the Houghton Rotary were at Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Hancock packing plastic bags with food to be delivered to local schools then repacked into backpacks.

Besides the 46 children receiving food in the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw district, Maki said 31 Backpacks is now working with five children at Lake Linden-Hubbell Public Schools, four at Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools and 26 at the Hancock Public Schools.

Maki, her daughter, Melissa, and friend, Amy Zadawa, began the 31 Backpacks program in October. Easily prepared food items are placed in backpacks for children whose parents may be financially challenged.

The program was started after Maki heard some children at C-L-K often had little or nothing to eat on the weekends.

“No child should go to bed hungry,” she said in a November Daily Mining Gazette interview about the program.

The name for the program was chosen after Maki had a conversation with Superintendent Darryl Pierce about how many children needed help.

The backpacks are filled and distributed to the students every Friday, Maki said.

Maki said the food is purchased with donated money from Tadych’s Econofoods, Walmart and Pat’s Foods. The Community Action Agency Food Bank also supplies some items.

The 31 Backpacks program is becoming well-known, Maki said, and that’s helping with monetary donations.

“We are amazed how many people have heard about the program,” she said.

Also hearing about the program were students at Hancock Middle School, who chose the organization as one for which they wanted to raise funds.

Matt Dennis, eighth-grade teacher at HMS, said the student council chose 31 Backpacks to be a recipient of their fundraising, and that impressed him.

“It’s really something when they step up for their own age group,” he said.

This year, Dennis said students raised $558.05 for the program.

March is Middle School Month, and Dennis said the fundraising effort was part of that.

The month was capped off with an interesting effort. Dennis said students purchased paper paws (The mascot for the district is a bulldog), which were used to get duct tape.

“For every 20 paws they purchased, they got a roll of duct tape,” he said.

The duct tape was used to tape two teachers, including Dennis, and a paraprofessional to the gym wall, Dennis said. The students of each grade had 15 minutes to use as much of the tape as they could. The class whose representative stayed taped to the wall longest won. Dennis came down first, followed by seventh-grade representative Matt Griffith. All-grade paraprofessional Dodie Toutant came down last.

Maki said although the program is just for the school year, efforts for it will continue.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some fundraising through the summer,” she said.

To donate money for the 31 Backpacks program, mail checks to 31 Backpacks, Inc. 1100 Century Way Suite C Houghton, MI 49931, email Laurel Maki at laurelmaki@charter.net or call at 231-1472. Melissa Maki can be contacted at melissamaki19@gmail.com or call 231-0694.