Local nonprofit calls on community for help

by Morgan Smith

One local nonprofit is clearing their shelves, making room for new supplies to ensure kids in south Charlotte will have food to eat once school starts back in August.

But they need your help to make it happen.

The Matthews HELP Center’s BounceBack Backpack program will supply 60 students across south Mecklenburg with snacks and meals over the weekends for kids on free and reduced lunch during the 2012-13 school year. Kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Greenway Park Elementary in south Charlotte and Matthews and Crown Point elementary schools in Matthews benefit from the program.

Kelly Trott, a social worker for the program, said many of the students on free and reduced lunch don’t have the quality nutrition they need after leaving schools on Friday and spending the weekend at home. Some kids are left to take care of themselves while parents are away at work. Trott added that without the proper nutrition, students cannot perform their best and sometimes come to school after the weekend tired and weak and lacking concentration.

“(The program) doesn’t only supplement a child’s diet, but also helps them with their anxiety and their concentration,” Trott said.

The program consists of four different menus with different varieties each month. The HELP Center has two food pantries, one for groceries for local families, and one for the backpack program. Each week, volunteers pack the backpacks with breakfast items, fruits and veggies and quick-fix easy meals that kids could make on their own. They deliver the packs to the schools just in time for kids to take them home on the weekends.

But right now, the backpack pantry is lacking, and needs the community’s help.

“We’re trying to actually fill in every weekend of our calendar through the school year so we know we have people to give food,” Trott said, challenging and encouraging area churches and businesses to make a weekend commitment and provide food to fill the packs.

“People don’t have to adopt entire weekends, but can just (commit) to donate specific items,” she added.

So far, Trott said through the three years of the program, the nonprofit has been able to deliver to the students every weekend.

“We’ve been able to fill all of them,” Trott said, “but now we’re growing.” The program began with only 20 backpacks, with 50 last year.

“It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes we’ve had to sub items because we didn’t have them all. But it’s a pure joint effort between churches, businesses and individuals,” she added.

To find out ways you can help, contact Trott at Kelly@matthewshelpcenter.org or at 704-847-8383, ext. 231. People also can go to the center’s website, www.matthewshelpcenter.org, to see a list of items and urgent needs for the program.

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