Story by Jill Lorie Hurst | Photos by Ed Abeska
THERE ARE A LOT of great kids in Ferndale. Summers they’re on bikes, or creating art with sidewalk chalk. Come September, we see them running to catch the school bus. Vibrant, healthy kids, the future advocates, leaders, and care- givers of this town we love. But we all know it’s hard to stay vibrant when you are hungry.
More than half the kids in Ferndale qualify for the reduced price / free lunch program offered by the public school system. This helps Monday through Friday, but what about the weekends?
Lindsay Gonska, a four-year vet of the Ferndale Public School system (second grade) and parent Nikki Amey share a deep concern about hunger and how it affects student performance…and the desire to fix the problem.
Lindsay: “Once you become invested in Ferndale, you want to help.”
Enter “Blessings in a Backpack,” a national program that started in Louisville, Kentucky in 2005 by a teacher who saw students returning to school on Mondays hungry, tired, and sluggish. The program sent these students home with backpacks that provide three meals a day ￼￼Lindsay Gonska during the weekend. BIAB now exists in 46 states. Michigan joined up in November of 2008, with more than 100 schools involved. Lindsay, Nikki and other committed folks in town are determined to make the program available to qualified Ferndale Public School students.
Recently I sat down with Lindsay, and my friends Megan and Jim Pool – who are on the committee – to get a progress report and find out what we can do to help. Simple answer: Money is needed. Once theprogram is completely funded, there will be volunteer opportunities, but in order to start the program without having to stop it midway, they need funding. A little goes a long way, and a little more can do a lot.
A $25 donation feeds one student for ten weeks. $100 gives a student a backpack full of food every weekend for the entire school year. Once funded, the program will start in our elementary schools, but the plan is to make it available to all qualified Ferndale Public School kids as soon as possible. The program takes into account food allergies and special dietary needs.
Jim Pool says, “This is the way for the community to be good neighbors to our youngest neighbors.” Our future teachers, nurses, urban planners, our artists, chefs, veterinarians and public servants…
Lindsay Gonska wants Ferndale kids to be the most successful students they can be. She is quietly, fiercely determined to get “Blessings in a Backpack” up and running. “We’re doing it. We’re going to keep going. It can succeed.”
For more information and to make a donation (tax deductible), see blessingsinabackpackmi.org or call 248-528- 1060. When you donate, please specify that the funds go to Ferndale. If you donate with a personal check, please write “Ferndale” on the memo line.
When we help our kids, we are helping not only their present, but OUR future.
Blessings in a Backpack is currently part of a fundraising challenge through Hour Detroit, competing against other charities to win $25,000. www.crowdrise.com/GiveDetroit-BlessingsinaBackpack/fundraiser/elainezold
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