Lee Co. community outreach program continues to provide weekly support

So far, 3,000 backpacks full of food and other necessities have been given to those in need.
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 4:21 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Lee County Family Connections is continuing its ‘Backpack Blessings Initiative’, in order to help students in need.

Every Tuesday, hundreds of bags are packed up with essentials like shelf-stable food items and given out to Lee County students in need. Primary and elementary school kids in the program receive these items every Friday.

“Backpack Blessings is what we call ‘weekend nutritional support,’” Lee County Family Connections Executive Director, Patsy Shirley, said. “It’s intended for our families who qualify for free or reduced meals in the school system just to provide meals for the weekend to families that could benefit from it.”

They have handed out over 3,000 backpacks full of food, resources, and other much-needed supplies families may not have.

“This is very much a collaborative effort in our community,” Shirley said. “The Kiwanis of LeeDo is our funding source. They raise the money and they pay for the food. The Family Connections, we serve as the liaison between the Kiwanis Club, The Vine, which is the church that is our food bank’s source to the school system, and our packing teams.”

Parents and guardians said Backpack Blessings has been a major help.

“It’s extra hard for me. I’m a grandparent raising grandkids,” Guardian Sarah Hunter said. “So it’s extra hard for me. And Backpack Blessings have been, you know, I always say it takes a village to raise kids. Well, the Backpack Blessings is a part of my village.”

Sarah Hunter is a grandparent who's grandkids receive Backpack Blessings.
Sarah Hunter is a grandparent who's grandkids receive Backpack Blessings.(WALB)

Shirley said the need for this is bigger than some may think.

“Right now, we’re serving 134 children a week,” she said. “That’s K through fifth grade. Of the free and reduced rate in Lee County around 43% of our students qualify for free and reduced. I think it’s a great benefit. It always has been. We hear stories all the time from families on how it’s benefited them in times, especially critical times, in need.”

The items families receive are easy and accessible.

“Everything in the package is shelf stable. And it’s mostly single-serve items and things that don’t require cooking. Like little cans on Beanie Weenies and things that the child should be able to open and feed themselves if needed,” Shirley said.

If you would like to help with Backpack Blessings and adopt a kid for the next school year, be sure to reach out to Patsy Shirley at patsy@leecountyfamilyconnection.org or (229)-903-3993.