UNION — How do you celebrate a 150th anniversary? If you’re the Union Elks Lodge you by using $1,500 grant to help a church group that gives needy schoolchildren backpacks full of food take home with them for the weekend.
Founded in 1868, The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the United States of America is a major American fraternal, charitable, and service order with more than a million members. Its charitable arm is the Elks National Foundation which was established in 1928 and allocates funds to Elks lodges for local charitable activities.
One of those lodges is the Union Elks Lodge which applied for and received a 2018 Anniversary Grant from the Elks National Foundation in the amount of $1,500.
The grant application describes the charitable project the lodge was seeking the grant to assist local schoolchildren who have very little or no food on weekends. It states that “Back-Pack Ministry has targeted 30 students who attend one of these schools. The village where the school is located was once a mill village, but now has very little employment for adults. Many of the children are in single-parent homes. These students have been identified by the school personnel as being in need of the back-pack food that is sent home with the child each Friday. Each student receives a package containing two proteins, two fruits, two breakfast foods, two snacks, and usually a juice provided by the lodge.”
In its application for the grant, the Elks Lodge stated that in Union County “there are many families who are below the poverty level. These children we serve are in the free-meal programs at their schools. These are single parent, disabled parent, unemployed parent homes where children do not get the attention and food that are necessary for them to perform as they should in school. Back-Pack Ministry is dedicated to giving these less fortunate children food to sustain them for the weekend and to show them that they are worthwhile human beings and have a group of adults who support them and show that Elks Care and Elks Share.”
Back-Pack Ministry was organized by members of Grace United Methodist Church after one member learned from her granddaughter that there were children at her school going all weekend without anything to eat.
“This is our third year of doing,” Back-Pack Ministry Founder and Chair Jeanette Galloway said. “I got the original idea from a granddaughter who was teaching in Miami. She had kids who came to school on Monday morning who had not eaten all weekend. My granddaughter said they looked sick because they had not eaten.”
After learning this, Galloway contacted teachers at schools in Union County to learn if this was also the case locally and learned that it was.
“We talked with some of the teachers here in the schools and saw there was a need,” Galloway said.
Galloway, who was President of the Women’s Missionary Circle of Hope at Grace United Methodist Church at the time, decided to do something about this and so she founded Back-Pack Ministry with other members of the group.
“We just decided we would pack book bags with food for them to take home with them on weekends,” Galloway said. “We do it weekly. We do breakfast items, protein items, fruit, and juice. We deliver the food on Thursdays and the school hands them out on Friday.”
Galloway said Back-Pack Ministry is currently providing food for 28 students at Buffalo Elementary School. She added that there are other churches who are also providing food assistance to needy children for the weekends.
The grant application states that the Elks Lodge will use the grant to purchase large quantities of food and store it for use in filling the backpacks to be distributed to the needy children.
As for its goal in applying for the grant, the Lodge states in its application that “our expectation is to bring a sense of normalcy to these children who never know whether they will have food to eat after they leave school on Friday until they return on Monday. Our goal is to make these unfortunate children know that there are people who care for them and want to show them that we respect them as children, are concerned for their well-being, and desire to help them to succeed in life by providing them the nourishment they need on the weekends.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.