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PawPacks organization gives and receives

Molly Gutshall

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The PawPacks program has been providing food for the students in the Big Spring community for almost 4 years. A group from Newville First Church of God started planning the program in 2014, along with planning how to advertise the program to other churches. Each week, the PawPacks program packs 108 bags of food that serve 108 kids and their families. Their food is sent home in duffel bags that are dropped off by the church to be distributed by the school, keeping anonymity for the kids. PawPacks is unaware of the student names they’re providing for; making only the school aware of student names.

PawPacks began in September of 2016 just for Newville Elementary school students. It then expanded to all three elementary schools and the middle school.  Over Christmas, the PawPacks program also paid to send Christmas packages with toys. In addition, over the summer, a letter is sent to each family giving the opportunity to come to the church to pick up foods for the families. However, this would mean that their identities wouldn’t be anonymous.

Last summer, the church had 13 families come to the church to get food. Jean Sponenberg, a member of the group at Newville’s First Church of God and PawPacks volunteer said, “We’ve kids from the families who were so excited to be getting their food, it’s unreal. They’d say “I’m a PawPacks kid!” with such excitement.” Clarissa Nace, principal of Big Spring Middle School said, “With the poverty rate that we currently have… there is a true need for food to help supplement the supply within some of our households.” It is a reassurance to families that their children who participate in the PawPacks program will have additional food for the weekend if money is tight or their food supply is low. Nace said, “I feel the program has been very successful, in that the students look forward to getting their bag each Friday and seeing the food that will be in it over the weekend.”

PawPacks oversees a great number of fundraisers. For example, spaghetti dinners and motorcycle races hosted by different churches. The program also receives money from the community chest, various donations, along with school fundraisers. Sponenberg said, “There are so many different organizations with people helping provide food for these hungry kids, and we truly need it all.”  For food for one student, the PawPacks program spends $30. Therefore, there is more than $3,000 spent per month.

For a recent fundraiser done by the junior class at Big Spring High School, there were socks sold. The company, We Help Two, provided the socks in pairs so that one pair of socks to would be given to a charity or organization of the junior class’ choice. PawPacks was the other organization that the fundraiser supported. Kaylee Enck, a junior class officer, said, “It was nice to be able to help out an organization that specifically benefits members of the Big Spring community along the way.” The junior class sold 110 packs of socks, surpassing their goal of 50. So all in all, the fundraiser was a success. Enck said, “We are in the process of getting the socks to the organization now. I hope this fundraiser brought awareness to all the good work that PawPacks does and encourages more people to get involved with them in whatever way they can.” The PawPack program can only thrive and grow based upon the support of local agencies/clubs/groups.

Kim Bailey, a church member at the Newville First Church of God, was involved in the group that started planning and advertising PawPacks and said, “The program has been very successful. We’ve gone from feeding around 19 kids and their families, to now more than 100.”

The PawPacks program will continue to help provide students with food for themselves and their families. The program will continue to meet once a week on Thursdays. Along with the 15 other churches involved in the program, PawPacks will continue to volunteer to make Big Spring’s students’ stomachs smile.  

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