Bluefield, W.Va. – As the summer vacation season is coming down the final stretch and the start of the school year is just around the corner, Mercer Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (N&RC) has joined the efforts to make sure local students don’t go hungry.
Mercer N&RC presented the local chapter of the Louisville, KY based Blessings in a Backpack (BIB) program with a $1,000 donation through the AMFM Charitable Foundations, Inc. The program helps mobilize communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across the United States. The Bluefield program began in 2012.
“Since last September we have sent out more than 3,000 bags of food for kids,” said Betsey Shaw, the local Program Coordinator for BIB. “One hundred percent of donations go to buying food for our kids.”
Mercer County schools provide free breakfast and lunch for all students. Shaw attributes the declining economic situation as a reason that kids may go hungry on the weekends. She recounts one story about a girl who came to school asking for more food because her father had got a new job, and she shared her lunch with him on his first day.
“Kids are the heart of our communities and after learning about the need here in Bluefield we wanted to help in any way that we could,” said Shellie Bailey, interim executive director for Mercer N&RC.
The estimated cost to provide each food with food for the year is $100.00 and the entire program is funded through local business donations, sponsorships, the community and fundraisers such as annual yard sales.
The process for kids receiving the food donations begins with purchasing food in bulk from local stores. Grant’s Supermarket is e-mailed the list of items. Twice a year volunteers meet at Trinity United Methodist Church to pack the bags.
Teachers at the three participating schools assess the needs of students who may benefit from the program. Letters are sent out and parents may opt out of receiving the additional support.
“Teachers can really tell a lot about a student’s situation by what the student says, the way they come in and eat breakfast, attendance and behavior,” said Shaw. The teacher will discreetly place a bag of food in the student’s backpack each Friday.
The BIB accepts items that are easy for children to open. Those include bottled water, oatmeal packets, snap-top cans, cheese and crackers, pudding, fruit cups and microwave macaroni and cheese.
“The kids absolutely love the mac and cheese, it’s their favorite,” said Shaw.
AMFM operates 18 skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers throughout West Virginia. The care centers operate in Braxton, Boone, Clay, Cabell, Summers, Fayette, Hardy, Greenbrier, Webster, Wayne, McDowell, Lincoln, Wyoming, Harrison (Clarksburg & Bridgeport), Marshall, Taylor and Mercer counties.
AMFM’s mission is “to exemplify excellence in quality care to our customers by providing an environment that enhances personal growth, individuality, dignity and respect.”