COAL CITY – When Cathy Milne announced in July she was closing the doors of the Coal City Clothes Closet, people were worried about what would happen to the backpack program.
The program sends food home each Friday throughout the school year with students in kindergarten through fifth grade who are in need so they have food during the weekend. When school is in session, students can get meals through the free meals programs.
Sara Smith, Cherie Sieger and Pam Carlton have stepped up to the plate to continue to help feed the 100 kids each week the previous program provided for.
“I asked Cathy questions about the program after I found out she was closing,” Sieger said. “That’s how I knew I wanted to get involved.”
Smith also had contacted Milne about the program and the two women were put in touch with one another. Knowing they wanted a third person, Sieger reached out to Carlton to see if she was interested.
“I thought of Pam, and I asked her if she would help me. She didn’t take a breath before responding with ‘Yes,’ “ Sieger said.
The newly-formed nonprofit organization has been named the Coal City Backpack Program. It has received its own EIN number and registered the name with the state.
The program’s mission is to allow the children of their community to grow in mind, body and spirit. The women have sent letters to local churches and business owners asking them to pull together with the group to give the children food each weekend.
“Our children will begin each school week with a full heart and nourished body,” the letter to local business owners states.
Milne said she is confident the group will continue the ministry she started, and is happy the program will continue.
“We have big shoes to fill,” Sieger said. “But our hearts are in it.”
Smith, a Minooka teacher, said she knows firsthand what it’s like for students to try to learn when there isn’t enough food for them at home.
As time goes on, Smith said the group hopes to network with people and find what other programs can assist them in the endeavors of the organization.
Notes have gone home with students who receive free or reduced lunches to see if the families are interested in the program.
The names of those receiving help remain confidential with the school social workers who work with the organization to get the food from the group to the students.
“The backpack program is significant,” district Superintendent Kent Bugg said. “When Cathy Milne first approached us, we ran with it, because it is important that our families have food over the weekends.”
Bugg said he was happy to hear that the program would be able to continue.
Last year, the program serviced 101 students in kindergarten through fifth grade each week.
The trio has set up a Facebook page to inform residents how they can help and to get information out about their services.
Food donations the group is looking for include: macaroni and cheese, applesauce, Ramen noodles, granola bars, oatmeal, Pop-Tarts, raisins, fruit snacks, juice boxes and fresh fruit. All items should be peanut free.
• Monetary donations can be made directly to the Coal City Backpack Program at Centrue Bank in Coal City.
• If you have food donations or inquiries, you can contact the program at email@example.com.
The first food-raiser event will be held this weekend in conjunction with the Parent School Organization (PSO) outdoor movie night.
Who: All families and community members of Coal City
What: Outdoor showing of Wreck It Ralph
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday with moving starting promptly at 8 p.m.
Where: CCHS practice field (behind the bleachers)
Price of admission is a non-perishable food item to be donated to the “Back Pack Program”
Examples would be snacks, noodles, flavored water, soups, etc ...
Bring your own chairs, pillows, blankets, etc.
Feel free to bring your own snacks and drinks. No glass bottles allowed.
No concessions will be available.
ALL children must be accompanied by an adult.