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Backpack Blessings to host vendor sale fundraiser in Pinch Saturday

By Clint Thomas, Metro Reporter
Backpack Blessings provides nutritious snacks for students from several area schools throughout the year. Courtesy photo

Backpack Blessings, a nonprofit food support program that feeds Kanawha and Clay county children along the Elk River when school is not in session, will host a fundraising vendor sale with food, games and door prizes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 3 at Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Pinch.

Food items available for purchase will include hot dogs and barbecues, along with chips, drinks and desserts.

There will be games for children and a raffle.

Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church is located at 401 Church Road.

The June 2016 Elk River floods necessitated that the all-volunteer Backpack Blessings group relocate temporarily from Clendenin to the Lower Elk River Ministry Association offices in Pinch for this year’s donation collection and distribution efforts.

“Our community has a number of young elementary students whose main source for nutritious food is the school,” explained Backpack Blessings Coordinator Debi O’Dell when the program was initiated in 2012. “Once home, and due to circumstances beyond their control, food is scarce.

“Our mission is to provide food to elementary students whose main source for food is their school,” O’Dell said. “We provide a backpack of nutritious, kid-friendly food at the end of each week. Our goal is to help ease the hunger of the child so that they attend school regularly, have better health and are successful. With over 100 students in the program from five different schools, we need help providing food each week.

“We work closely with the school counselors, teachers and social workers in our area to meet the needs of the students. Not only do we provide food weekly, we provide boxes of food for the families over school breaks.”

The backpacks are provided confidentially to students by their teachers or counselors. Schools served by Backpack Blessings include H.E. White Elementary, Clendenin Elementary, Bridge Elementary, Pinch Elementary, Elk Center Elementary, Elkview Middle and Herbert Hoover High School.

Food items most often requested for donations, to fill the backpacks, include:

• Juice boxes

• Vegetable soup (with pop-top cans)

• Chicken noodle soup

• Vienna sausages

• Beanie Weenies

• Spaghetti-Os or other canned pastas

• Oatmeal breakfast bars

• Cereal breakfast bars

• Nutri-Grain bars

• Pop-Tarts

• Milk that doesn’t need refrigeration going home

• Small, individual bags of pretzels, crackers, cookies, cheese and crackers

• Small cans of chili, tuna, chicken

• Individual servings of pudding (no fat-free)

• Fruit cups

• Applesauce

• Gummy Fruits.

Financial and other donations are also welcome, as the program has expanded beyond nonperishable food items since its inception.

“At the requests of teachers, we are going to provide free books for these students once a month. Our goal is not only to feed our students but to encourage them to be do well in school. Ownership of books is one way we are going to tackle this concern,” O’Dell said.

“We have also provided clothing, coats, hats, scarves, gloves, shoes, boots and school supplies to students. We try to fulfill the request of the school personnel who are working directly with the student,” the Elkview resident and retired Herbert Hoover High teacher added.

After last year’s June floods obliterated Backpack Blessings’ Clendenin headquarters and inventory, the group relocated to Mt. Tabor UMC. Shortly afterward, volunteers returned to their mission and hand-delivered 1,000 bags of food directly to flood victims, provided 4,000 backpacks filled with school supplies and partnered with the United Way to provide clothing for those children affected by the flooding. Backpack Blessings also donated complete sets of books to flooded schools and replaced classroom materials for teachers. They distributed Fiesta dinnerware, food, personal hygiene items and more than $2,000 gift cards to affected schools and residents. The group also arranged a free Christmas dinner for flood victims, held in the former Clendenin Middle School gymnasium in late December.

Online donations to Backpack Blessings can be made at

For more information, visit


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