“I read that article in the newspaper [Sack Pack Program] and just couldn’t believe we had that type of need [child hunger]. It really touched my heart and I don’t want anyone to know who I am, but in this envelope is $10,000 to support the Sack Pack program,” the mystery donor said.
Fisher was shocked. Inside an orange envelope rested three separate bundles of hundred dollar bills. The donor requested $5,000 go toward Black Fox with the remaining money split between Waterville Elementary and Valley View Elementary.
A note included in the envelope read, “I read with much concern about the large number of our students at Black Fox, Waterville, and Valley View Elementary Schools who are going hungry. Allowing this to happen is just not acceptable. No Child should go hungry and I applaud you for the Sack Pack Program and the attempt to feed these innocent children...”
The note was signed, “An Early Christmas Gift from, Santa’s Helper.”
“I think we are just all really glad there are still heroes,” Fisher said. “And this person is a hero. That is what a real hero is, someone who doesn’t want any credit for his good deed.”
The Caring Place received a grant in January from United Way to fund their Sack Pack program.
From January through June the organization provided 200 packs a month to be separated between students at Black Fox, Waterville and Valley View.
The meals are chosen with care by The Caring Place’s nutrition coordinator. Inside each white sack is enough food for two breakfasts, lunches and dinners with snacks. The outside of the bags are decorated with stickers.
“There are 10,000 students in the Bradley County School system,” said Johnny McDaniel, director of Bradley County schools. “Roughly 6,000 students qualify for free and reduced lunch.”
McDaniel said people probably do not realize the number of students who are in need of food in the Bradley County Cleveland community.
According to McDaniel, 79 percent of Taylor Elementary’s student population is on free and reduced lunches.
“The thing I like most is the food is both nutritious and appealing to the children. The food is often ready to eat items the kids can prepare themselves,” Fisher said. “A whole lot of thought goes into how they make the bags.”
As the three principals speak about the program their voices intermingle.
Sherrie Ledford from Valley View said the program has made a big difference.
Charlene Cofer from Waterville said the program has helped them identify specific student needs.
All three ladies are visibly excited even two days after the donation.
“The fact we have a community that steps up and meets the needs of these children is wonderful,” Cofer said. “The Caring Place steps up and so do our church and business partners.”
The $40,000 grant from United Way lasts one year.
According to Reba Terry, director of The Caring Place, the grant will decrease by 20 percent each year. The organization is currently fundraising in addition to requesting individual and business sponsorships.
Five dollars will provide a child with food for one weekend. Twenty dollars will ensure a child will be fed on weekends for a month. A donation of roughly $200 ensures a child has a sack pack every weekend of the school year.
“I have seen a lot of kids touched by this program,” said Allison Butler, Black Fox school guidance counselor. “...Many of the kids saw fellow students with sack packs and understand if they do not ask for a pack, then they may not receive help. Some of these kids are in charge on the weekends so these packs really help them.”
Butler said she has seen children pile food on their trays at lunch. When asked why they were taking so much they replied, “I may not get food tonight.”
“The program is great for students and parents. Sometimes you have other bills due and when the sack pack comes home on the weekend, it frees parents up to buy others things to provide for their kids. It’s a big help financially to parents and kids alike,” Butler said.
There have been several more donations since the $10,000 was donated on Monday.
Terry said The Caring Place is interested in branching out to more schools across all grade levels provided funding can be found.
For more information, contact Gwen Evans at 423-472-4414.