Optimists help support backpack programPublished 4:20pm Monday, November 19, 2012
Jay Brackensick, food service general manager for Sodexo, with Dave Strlekar, Dowagiac Optimist Club, Monday at Dowagiac Middle School.
Dowagiac Optimist Club’s first $500 donation to the backpack program should furnish a month’s worth of food.
The presentation retired principal Dave Strlekar made Monday morning at Dowagiac Middle School to Jay Brackensick, Sodexo food service general manager, came primarily from the club’s spring pancake breakfast.
“Districtwide it’s pushing 60 to 65” since starting with Pokagon United Methodist Church and Patrick Hamilton Elementary School last school year. “It’s at all the elementaries,” Brackensick said.
Sister Lakes also works with a church, while he serves Kincheloe and Justus Gage from DMS. “I have some students who help me pack the backpacks” for Friday delivery to tide students over the weekend, he said. “For Thanksgiving, we’ll include an extra day.”
Backpacks are filled with fruits, vegetables, cheese sticks and ready-to-eat entrees, such as canned ravioli, lasagna and pork and beans.
“My driver drops them off in the office when he delivers food to the other schools,” Brackensick said. “I don’t know who (recipients) are and I don’t want to know. We’ve approached kids here and they flat out refuse. The church does all the purchasing and gives me receipts and I get donations. Typically, one backpack costs $5 to $6 a week. We’re trying to expand because there are more kids who could use it.”
“These are kids who fall between the cracks,” Strlekar said. “They’re not on free lunches and their parents cannot get food stamps. The parents try to work and they’re not on welfare. They might have health issues.”
“It’s people who have fallen on hard times,” Brackensick said. “They’ve lost their job or lost their house and run out of benefits. It’s a delicate situation because we don’t want to identify the kids with publicity, yet publicity helps bring in other donations. The Elks helped us a lot, the Optimists, sororities and individuals have written checks. There’s been a real good outpouring of community spirit.”
Strlekar said his youth-oriented 15-member club hopes to continue contributing to the backpack program.
Optimists sponsor the Halloween parade, have donated to Project Graduation when asked and bestow a $500 scholarship on a graduating senior.
Tags: Dowagiac Optimist Club