By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 —
Divine intervention played a big role in Debra Eudy’s decision to start a backpack program for needy children about four years ago.
Eudy helps operate the community food distribution center at Providence Church of God in Locust. Since 2006, the church has helped needy people with food assistance, providing more than 500,000 pounds of food. The second Saturday of each month finds the church helping as many as 500 people on the church’s campus with food assistance.
Eudy admitted she felt she was beginning to stretch herself thin with her duties with the food bank as well as other church obligations. She did some praying and was kind of surprised by the response she said she received.
“I was praying and asking God how to straighten everything out because I was getting overwhelmed and he said ‘start a backpack program,’ ” Eudy said.
“I was like ‘No, how do I make my life simpler?’ And he said ‘start a backpack program.’ So I started looking into it because of the connections we have with Second Harvest (Food Bank). Second Harvest was not in Stanly County at the time. Because of our connections, that’s how we started.”
Eudy said the program began with 25 bags at Locust Elementary and has expanded to nearly 200 in the four years. A big part of the help the program receives is donations from businesses.
Tailgators in Locust presented a check for $1,500 to the organization. The money was raised through stockings that customers purchased for $5 and Gator Bucks which could be purchased for $1, $5 and $10.
“The owners of this company, if there’s one thing they like to do, it’s to give back to the community,” said Keena Dunham, general manager at Tailgators.
“If it wasn’t for the community, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. They are very big on supporting the community and doing everything they can. They like to give back because the community has been so good to us. If it wasn’t for the generosity of our customers, we would never have been able to do this.
“We are all moms. We are families and we are a family within this place.
“Our customers are part of our family. It was a huge effort but it really paid off, thanks to our customers. It’s just going to help a lot of kids.”
The backpacks are put together for needy children to have food for the weekend. About seven items are included in each backpack, which the church provides. Breakfast items, canned vegetables, fruits, meats and soups are included.
Eudy works with seven schools to provide backpacks: Oakboro, Stanfield, Locust, Millingport and Richfield elementary schools and West Stanly Middle. Teachers at the schools help the program find the most needy children who need the backpacks.
Eudy and her brother, Kenny Page, pick up the empty backpacks each Thursday, get them filled and return them on Friday for the children, who anonymously receive the gifts. This continues during the school year.
“The thing I love about the backpack program is there’s so many programs that start out well and can get tainted. But this one, it’s just a kid taking enough food home,” Eudy said.
“Here in Stanly County, over half of our school population is free and reduced lunch. That’s hundreds of children, and we can’t accommodate that right now. So what we do is we spread out what Second Harvest would give us. The church does some, the Rotary club does some. We just all come together and get the most at-risk children at each school. That’s why I like the way we do it.”
Eudy said a recent donation from Walmart will help the organization reach nearly 200 children each week during the school year. And it’s donations such as the ones from Tailgators and Walmart that help keep the worthy program doing what it does best.
“Everybody jumped right in and was ready to donate their money,” said Shelli Barbee, of Tailgators.
“Especially since it’s going to the kids who might not have as much food at Christmas or whenever.
“Between myself, Keena and the rest of the girls, we jumped in and told the customers what was going on. Once they see our Christmas trees with the Gator Bucks hanging on, it’s like they want to know what one of those hanging up there is for and what can we do to help.”