MATTAWAN - In its initial year last year, Generous Hands of Mattawan served 25 Mattawan Early and Later Elementary School students, providing kid-friendly, nutritious snacks throughout the school year.
This year, under a new name and under the auspices of the Mattawan Area Pantry, Mattawan Food Packs returns, and has added the Mattawan Middle School to its list, which has grown to 65 children.
Through donations from community families and two grants from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, the Mattawan Food Packs volunteers provide 65 backpacks to the students, filled with plastic bags or “inserts” containing items such as pasta, juices, cookies and crackers.
“It was because of those donations that allowed us to expand,” said Nina Hamilton, a group volunteer. The backpacks were donated by United Bay Community Credit Union.
“Each student finds 15 items per week in their backpack,” said Kristi Friend, another group volunteer.
The community has stepped up its efforts this year, according to Friend and Hamilton.
“One family has donated the cost of giving each child one jar of peanut butter per month” said Friend.
In addition, another family donates the cost of one gallon of milk per family each week through a voucher to be redeemed at Wagoner’s grocery store in Mattawan.
State Farm Insurance has also provided two grants toward the group’s efforts.
Lake Michigan Mailers Inc. has selected Mattawan Food Packs as one of their 2012 and 2013 Charity Partners giving them a generous donation.
Mattawan Cub Pack 161 recently completed a jelly drive and a sock drive for Mattawan Food Packs. Each child received a jar of jelly and up to five pair of socks for Christmas.
Three times during the school year, students also receive a hygiene kit. The kit contains soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotions, deodorant and band-aids.
An area dentist also helped by donating tooth brushes and toothpastes to the children.
A recent holiday cookie exchange was held for the students, and more than 15 area women gathered to fill plastic containers with homemade Christmas cookies for each student.
Friend said the Mattawan Community Church has donated a room in its basement for the group to store and pack the food items.
The group is planning several fundraising efforts, beginning next month.
A restaurant night has been planned for January.
Friend said the restaurant will donate a portion of its proceeds from a given night to the group.
A Mom to Mom Sale has also been scheduled for Saturday, March 2, 2013.
For more information about the group, check their Facebook site at Mattawan Food Packs or their website at: mattawanfoodpacks.org.
To make a financial contribution to the group, checks may be mailed to: Mattawan Area Pantry, P.O. Box 155, Mattawan, MI, 49071. Questions about the group may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.